Thursday, March 26, 2009

My Neighbor and Me

I'm starting to feel I'm focusing too much on the LDS church here; I'm hoping to fix that.

The thing is, as a young kid the LDS church was like a friend of a friend, or a friend of family. Eh, call him Larry, Larry Daysaints. He ran the neighborhood, and on whole was a pretty good guy. I liked and revered and followed his father, Bob Protestantsen, and grew up in a school with Bob as my teacher (stick with me here :-)). I suppose I wasn't really clear there was a difference between the two men at such a young age.

When Larry told me there was a difference, though, I decided to give him a shot. I befriended him, then I revered him, and then I believed his every word. I'd come to find though, I couldn't trust his every word and so returned to following Mr. Protestansen. For a while, in my teens, I thought Larry had evil motivations, in his trying to pull me away from following Mr. Protestantsen, but eventually concluded that the Daysaints had good hearts and were just honestly mistaken. After all, I started to notice very similar problems with the older Bob. I eventually decided to not believe everything either of them said.

Then I went through puberty and found I wasn't like the rest of the boys. Bob and Larry would have had a problem with that, but Larry and I had already cut ties and I knew Bob had problems of his own. So who cares what they think, right? And that was that for many years.

I got married, and we moved to get my MS in California. I hardly noticed we left Larry and Bob in the old neighborhood, and really got comfortable rarely realizing being gay was an issue any more pressing than my eye color. Still, I had fond feelings for both old neighbors, and in fact still respected them from afar (or respected what I remembered of them).

Then it came time to become parents and we wanted to raise our kids around family, and so we moved back to Utah, back to having Larry as our neighbor, which I naively didn't give much of a worry. Outside my neighborhood, Larry controls very little and I was used to that, but in Utah it's different.

So we were blessed with children, and suddenly I started hearing rumors, or more accurately I started noticing it much more. Larry smiles to our face and says horrible things about me and my husband to the other neighbors; it turns out he always had and it just didn't hit me hard when it was just some old guy spouting off about something he knew nothing about, but, when aimed at my marriage and kids, that made a difference. And yes, I know, friends had told me he was a jerk but I thought that was just a temporary mistake or a lapse on Larry's part; we all make mistakes.

Then he started putting insults right to our faces, lawn signs in his yard aiming at us. It was not just in his private neighborhood meetings anymore, and, worse, he began publicly insulting our kids. Of course he claims it's all for our own good, constructive criticism, tough neighborly love or something, but who does he think he's fooling, right? How would he like it if I treated his family like that? I got upset, and told him we're officially not friends anymore, but, of course, he didn't much notice.

Then--would you believe it--Larry starts asking the neighborhood to work to harm my husband and kids and many other families of friends we love. He's telling us he doesn't hate us or disrespect us, no; it's just that families (if he'd even use the word for us) like ours, having equal rights to Larry and his wife, well, that upsets him. He says he's just defending family and marriage by harming us and doesn't get how his choices could ever be disrespectful or immoral. He can't seem to understand we are all for marriage and family too and to insinuate we are not... well, I'd rather be called faggot to my face. It all came to a head when he made himself instrumental in an attempt to annul my legal marriage last November, with the help of other neighbors and distorted facts about what has happened in neighborhoods where we are treated with equality.

Then, when I confronted him about his behavior, he acts all offended and goes on about his rights and being persecuted, complaining about my incivility and lack of respect for him. Weird, right?

Anyway, I digress.

So I've got this bizarre long-history with this neighbor I once liked but who has now turned himself into a great source of harm for my family, and I don't know what to do with it. For months since the election, I find myself waking up about once a week at night worrying what he's going to do to my family next. I know, behind the scenes, he's still plotting against us. It's making me paranoid. He's already expressed interest in our children, and has shown his power and influence with his interest in our marriage. But it doesn't have to be that big; what if he starts spreading more lies to my family? Instructing them? Many of them are torn and some will do whatever he tells them. What about what he's doing to the gay children in his home? I hate to bring it up in a lighthearted metaphor like this, but what gay man in Utah doesn't know a kid who killed himself here?

If Larry was feeling sad because I stopped taking notice of him or what he had to say for all those years, he should be pleased; he has tight hold of my attention now.

And that's what I'm hoping to change. I'm thinking of him too much. It's like the year our mailbox was blown up, Christmas decorations slashed with a knife, and we were left, on our doorstep, a cryptic handwritten letter about us turning to Christ, in Spanish (true story :-)); each little bump I heard at night, sounded like those vandals trespassing again. Similarly, after our last year with the LDS church, I'm thinking too much of them trespassing into our home, our most sacred unions again. Sure, we have real conflict but I'm also seeing conflict where there is likely none.

I want to stop that and go back to our old neighborly relationship, before all this. I want my neighborhood back, to feel like my home again, not some bully's territory. I want neighbors who say they're sorry when they harm us, instead of "stop hitting yourself". I don't want to be suspicious anymore of people who count Larry as a friend. I even want to like quirky old Mr. Daysaints again, if he'd just live and let live.

So, while we have to be in his neighborhood, I'm going to try to turn my attention away from his every insult and political maneuver, on this blog and in the real world. I'm going to try to ignore proclamations in my brother's home, and CTR rings on my child's finger... treat it like the inappropriate words that come out of the mouths of my older relatives. It's certainly not that I find the behavior any less objectionable, but I don't want to spend as much time thinking about it, worrying the next time Larry walks by he'll salt our lawn, or tell my children they're of inferior moral character to other kids, or something. We'll deal with it when he does.

So what do you think is a fair goal? Only one post about Larry per week, month? How does one go back to those pre-prop 8 days, anyway? Seems a lot of us around here want to know.

10 comments:

Queers United said...

I think you guys need to move to an inclusive community, you shouldn't have to put up with this garbage. Start a new life, make new friends.

FosterAbba said...

I think you should move back to California.

Anonymous said...

I wandered in here from some random link I can't even find any more, and ended up spending over an hour and a half reading through your blog. I just wanted to thank you for such a great read. I've never encountered a perspective quite like yours.

And your kids are absolutely beautiful. :)

Scott said...

There are times I'd sort of like to ignore Larry too...

Maybe it helps to know that fewer and fewer people are listening to him as time goes on? That even people in his family are having a hard time with some of the comments he makes sometimes?.

... In fact, it just occurred to me that Senator Buttars is a lot like the church. He's got some pretty nasty beliefs, and he says some pretty nasty things, and because he has some power, he can even do some nasty things and cause some real harm, and he has done for quite a while.

But the more he exerts his authority to impose his beliefs on others, the easier it becomes to see what he is doing. More and more, people are recognizing him for what he is, and there will come a day when he will suddenly find that he doesn't have the power that he used to, because he's lost the support of the people of West Jordan.

In the meantime, the people of West Jordan have put him in the Senate more than once. Many of them support him and believe in his causes, but many of them don't, and even many who voted for him are embarrassed by him.

You probably wouldn't automatically assume the worst in your interactions with the people of West Jordan... Until they give you a reason to believe that they are fully supportive of Buttars' bigotry it's easy to give them the benefit of the doubt. Even if you find out that someone voted for him, perhaps you would be willing to cut them some slack until you found out how they really felt about your family?

If Buttars is the church, the people of West Jordan (especially those who voted for him) are the members of the church, and maybe they can be given the benefit of the doubt too? Perhaps more than you would expect would actually support your family--or at least not condemn it.

Or maybe I've been rambling on and not really making any sense. I do that sometimes. In fact, I'm wondering whether to even post this comment... (finger hovers over the "publish" button...)

Rowan said...

Hmm...

Maybe you should stop EXPECTING things from these people who don't like what you stand for?

I mean, it's kind of weird.

I'm trying to empathise and I'm summarising that having come from a stable normal, white middle class family with no major drama, the path in your life has been very 'normal'.

You fitted in. That was good because you didn't want to NOT fit in.

But you found out you are gay.

That made you different. Not 'normal'.

You've done much soul searching and incredible growth and figured religion for what it really was and appreciated your gayness.

This is were I get confused and always do when you show shock at someones reaction to your family in Utah.

You're really bright and your extensive learning got you to discover so much and understand so much stuff you NEVER would've approached.

So why do you regress in thought to the person you were before you were 'Out', when you are judging or attempting to understand your neighbours or folk from this red state?

It's a juxtoposition. And it's contradictory in a way.

As a scientist you are inherently a problem solver, delving deeply into complex circumstances.

You have/show high intergrative complexity.

So why not take that way of thinking into understanding human beings? Sociology?

Seriously religous people have low integrative complexity-it can't change. It's how your brain is processed?

Do you see were I'm getting at? By being realistic about human beings and their behaviours does not makeyou any less optimistic OR positive.

The less you try and get some kind of empathy from your town folk, the more at peace you will be.

People are inherently selfish and self involved. It's not personal, you could be anyone.

To him your gay and it's wrong.

Sad but true...

angryyoungwoman said...

You need to get away from Utah. It's a dangerous place to be. They claim to be family friendly, but that really depends on the family. You need to get away from that place.

Carter Niven said...

I'm trying desperately to forget about this neighbour too! And yet if I am going to have any conversation of importance with my new friends (especially to have them understand my life) I have to talk about the neighbour! I try to be fair to my past, and try not to be embarrassed for some of the things I said or believed... but sometimes I just wish that I could forget about it and move on!

Scot said...

Q.U. Can't you get your court to decide faster? :-)

FosterAbba:

Hi there and welcome!

"I think you should move back to California."

We'll see. I bet Larry would pack our bags for us, though.

Welcome to you too, Anonymous. And Thank you.

Scott:

"Senator Buttars is a lot like the church."

If he were my neighbor, we'd have left years ago :-).

"You probably wouldn't automatically assume the worst in your interactions with the people of West Jordan... "

Sure, and I certainly don't want to do different with friends of Larry; I want to let go of my suspicion unless given reason to do otherwise. I don't want a new bias. Thanks for being, along with your wife, a good example of why.

Rowan:

I'm glad to say you've given me a lot more to think of than I wrongly anticipated from first impression.

"Maybe you should stop EXPECTING things from these people who don't like what you stand for?"

That's the easy one. There are many groups in the US who stand for things I don't like, but I'm still obligated to follow the golden rule in my dealings with them, and they expect that of me, as they should. But I do see a point here; this bothers me more than is helpful (and ironically, it's probably from my upbringing in a christian school). It's for this same reason I've worked for years with other people in minority classifications in Utah; such just bothers me to the core.

"So why do you regress in thought to the person you were before you were 'Out', when you are judging or attempting to understand your neighbours or folk from this red state?"

This actually caused an appreciated realization. Do you have children, Rowan? They can make everything new, the good and the bad. The things is I don't identify with the emotion you've read into my posts; I don't care if I'm seen as normal; I care what my neighbors do to us, but not what they think; I don't feel like I did when coming out... Nevertheless, I think you may be on to something. My kids have not yet noticed any issue here, and yet I'm bracing for them out of memory, even when I don't need to.

"As a scientist you are inherently a problem solver, delving deeply into complex circumstances.

You have/show high intergrative complexity.

So why not take that way of thinking into understanding human beings? Sociology?"

Thanks for saying that, but this is one of the problems. I've a habit of feeling like I can solve any problem if I just focus enough and put enough work into it. That's what got me through my PhD, and that's what keeps bringing me back to hitting my head against this wall, egotistically feeling I can fix this huge problem too. It seems to me I've got to get it through my head this is not my lab, and it's not in my power to realize the scientific method here.

I do agree though, it is best to look at those others as you suggest. There's a difference though between being sad because someone doesn't like you, and being stressed because you don't know what harm in your family they're going to attempt next. I'm starting to get wind of them looking at the Ca law that gave us parental rights and they are now even fighting out of state adoptions in Florida. It's like the weather: I'd never be sad about a storm cloud--which is kind of what happens when you come out--but I'll still panic and hurry my family into shelter if it looks like lightning. Does that make sense?

And I can appreciate this too:

"The less you try and get some kind of empathy from your town folk, the more at peace you will be."

Still, if I am at peace about this, if I relax before I fix this, will that slow us down? Would that make me a leach on my friends working hard, up late, fighting for us in Utah? Don't get me wrong, I'm tired and I want to live where I don't have to be on guard, but while I'm living where there's a fight I feel pretty much drafted.

I guess I fear some part of us has to burn, to fuel our way forward.

If that's not the case though, I'd love to learn how.

-------------------------------

Ah A.Y.W.

Thank you for the concern. I'm looking at our options/for jobs and waiting for CA to make up their mind.

Carter:

"I try to be fair to my past, and try not to be embarrassed for some of the things I said or believed... but sometimes I just wish that I could forget about it and move on!"

I'm sure you'll move on from what you've said and believed. That just takes time (I should go back and post some of my old old writings just to show how much can be forgotten :-))... But if you find a way of getting our mutual neighbor to be a bit more neighborly, do let me know :-).

Buffy said...

Typical tactics. They engage in full frontal attacks, pretend they're doing nothing wrong, and act like the injured parties when you say or do anything to defend yourself. It's cruel, deceitful and vile. Unfortunately where you're living I don't see any way for you to gain the upper hand, or even a balance. Sadly it doesn't even seem like there's a chance of that here in CA thanks to Proposition 8. My wife and I may be looking at a relocation as soon as we can make it possible.

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