Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Evangelicals and Gays, Part III

Fresh off the lovely MoHo party thrown last Saturday by Scott and Sarah (Thank you both for having us!), we hosted the evangelical group at our home last night. I should call up my friend who’s a Muslim and ask her to set up a group with them each month, just to fill out our calendar ;-). For an agnostic, maybe I keep unexpected company, but it’s appreciated company and I hope I’m learning with each step into the unknown or once known.

I had to do some convincing to get Rob to agree to host last night. The reasons why are probably obvious. They would, in fact, have been my reasons three months ago. I would have expected argument; I would have met them with images of the evangelicals protesting gay pride and LDS conference in mind. I’d certainly not trust such people around our children, or want them to know where we live. I mean, what if? Right?

Three meetings later, after hearing them out and breaking bread together (which, last night, were Rob’s terrific cookies), my old anticipation about these individuals is a source of embarrassment. They are good, friendly people, each the sort of person I’m glad and comfortable to have seated on our family room couch, and that’s saying something.

Reaching beyond the stereotypes and the vocal loons in both our camps was, in part, the theme of last night. Personally, I hope in posting on this, my experience may be some measure of evidence to those in the gay community who harbor similar fears, who may feel a chill when they hear the words “Evangelical Christian”. Those fears are every bit as unfair and unfounded, even if not nearly as legally deleterious to them, as the fears we face.

I suppose I’m not saying my guard is dropped, though. As I explained last night, I’ve no problem having a friend who think homosexuality is a sin, but once it crosses the line into practical, legal harm to my family, the sort they’d not want for their family, then there is only so close a relationship can get before my duties as a husband and father will force a certain distance. There are still vagaries to be dealt with in later meetings, and those who spoke were admittedly unclear on the politics. That was yet another repeating theme: the gays seemed concerned for the practical policy issues their families face, while it seemed the other side was focused on the religious issues.

It may seem we’ve already covered this ground, but it is complicated ground. We spent most the night trying to figure out how best to reach across the divide, to figure out what each community had to do for the other. I am hoping to speak up for the evangelicals, here and in the gay community in general, if I ever hear their names indiscriminately hissed out. One thing I was left impressed with was that they decided, without the gay group putting it out there, that the burden was primarily on their shoulder to reach out because of the political history. I was struck with the amount of willingness to step into our shoes that must have taken and hope they know, while I expect we should all make the effort, the realization of the asymmetry here is very much appreciated, refreshing.

One last thing… I can’t believe this is even a significant news story, but I guess I just don’t have the normal quantity of care for beauty pageants. The topic of the Miss California competition and Carrie Prejean came up last night (you can read on it here). For days now I’ve been thinking people were mispronouncing Paris Hilton’s name, but now I gather this Perez Hilton is a dude, one who seems to represent the gay community to a good number of minds. Anyway, we all agreed: asking the question was a poor choice; his blog response to her answer was simply stupid, and rude (OMG, a blog fight is serious news on gay marriage! :-)). This would be funny for it's silliness, but it seems some groups are still trying to make hay of this and use it to fight against equal marriage rights.

Look, I’ve no issue with her thinking or saying for her family or God marriage is between a man and a woman. Again, I get upset when a person advocates practical harm to their neighbor’s family, but I'd rather a person say it than keep it hidden. Nevertheless, her answer was factually incorrect and revealed a clear lack of knowledge on the topic. The first time I heard it I thought it was a parody and I have a hard time understanding how anyone doesn’t think it should have cost points. I mean, if not understanding of the issues, what are they graded on?

But again, it’s a beauty pageant! Sheesh. People are really fuming about this? The same people who are upset that a single person got second place instead of first in a pageant seem to be absolutely blind to the thousand’s of dollars extra thousands of families pay without marriage law. They seem blind to the legal safety nets they keep from under thousands of couples, parents, and children. They don’t freak out like this when a gay man can’t get claim to his deceased husband’s estate or when the parent of a child isn’t made legally responsible for that child because of their sex, and yet they’re upset about one girl not being Miss America? What odd priorities are those?

Thank goodness the vocal Christians on this one are not the sort of evangelicals I know. Also thank goodness they aren’t the sort to judge the gay community, or the fight for marriage rights, or my family on Perez Hilton.

There are so many pressures and easy excuses like this silly example pushing us all apart, it almost seems like a little miracle nights like last night happen at all.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Speaking of Curiosity...

We had parent-teacher conference last night. I'm fighting off a bug but had to go; I don't think most parents could stand to get such information second hand. We all sit out there in the hall, nervously awaiting the verdict about our children's education, the details that are so hard to divine out of the accounts of 1st graders. They generally think the only salient events of their school day involve who brought what to lunch or who got in trouble :-).

We got there a bit early and Rob took a seat outside the door while I read through the adorable poems our kid's class had on their bulletin board in the hall.

From behind me I heard a boy, about the age of 12, come up and ask Rob, "Are you Brian's Dad?"

"Yes, my name is Rob; what's yours?"

The boy said his name and quickly and nonchalantly shot off, "Where's Brian's other dad?"

At that I turned around, a bit surprised an older kid we didn't know would come to ask that and so plainly. I said hi and introduced myself as he offered to shake hands. I recognized him by his mother's attention as the older brother of one of Brian's classmates, from a family we hadn't socialized with much.

Then he asked me where I work, followed quickly by "Which one of you was Brian's dad first?" This kid was quick with the questions. His mom interrupted before I could answer. She apologized, assuming the question was offensive. I assured her it absolutely was no bother, and we're used to such questions. Very often people assume one of us must have had our children in a heterosexual marriage, never considering we may have got together a decade before their birth. I just told the kid becoming fathers happened at the same time for us. His mom jumped in with an "Isn't that great?", one of those nice injections in casual conversation I've noticed other parents will give to let us know they're okay with our family. You just wouldn't say such things about heterosexual couples, and so it must be code :-).

At that, without pause, he went on to "What gym do you go to?" Giving him the benefit of the doubt--that this wasn't some stereotype ;-)--I told him, even though I probably should get some more exercise, we don't go to a gym, and that was that. He moved on to quizzing another set of parents waiting for their time with the teacher.

It turns out this adorably inquisitive and matter-of-fact kid goes to the same school and has some form of high-functioning autism. What stands out to me, of course, is the fact that another family there, one we don't know very well, seems to have felt fine discussing "two dads" with their children, and made clear to their kids that's okay, "great" even; though yeah, I know "great" means "okay" and it's just difficult to know how to put it :-). I eat such assurances up, knowing what they mean for our kids. Though his mom feared her son made us uncomfortable, I hope I got it across that I found the conversation heartening and found her son's forthrightness refreshing.

And on top of that, we left the conference inflated with the wonderful reports from their teachers. I keep going to these things nervous and leaving feeling ridiculous for the nerves, but what you gonna do? It's in my nature to be overly concerned about them. We do still have this "problem", I say, knowing full well I'll sound like one of those insufferable parents :-): "Brian is well above grade level in all areas", and Alan is "right where he should be, high first grade", and the problem is they tend to compare. But Alan has really blossomed into his own skills over this year.

At the end of each of these I always have to ask, just in case the teachers are too unsure how to bring it up, if our family is ever an issue or if there are any problems on that front we should be aware of. But nope, it's all clear, if not better than that. Heck, if our family ever needed to call independent witnesses for our defense, with the way their teachers talk, they would be the first people I'd call. Still and of course, I know we'll have to be vigilant and make some tough decisions to keep it this way, to keep them buffered from the rough waters of politics and religion out there.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


I've been going the rounds over on Evan's blog about gay parenting. It's taken up all my blogging time and so I'll just link to it as my mid-week post :-).


The post that spawned all that commenting kind of reminds me of the time Brian came home from school the first day and started running around the kitchen yelling "mommy, mommy", an event I related, here.

In Evan's post an account of one of Rosie O'Donnell's sons is related. In it he is said to ask why he doesn't have a father and that is used by Bill Maier to argue against same-sex parenting. Of course, a child's wondering about the way his family is should not be a big deal and no one would judge heterosexual families by celebrity parents (I hope); anyway, I went over all that in those comments.

Still, I'm kind of left wondering, if that truly is the case for the O'Donnells, why it hasn't been for us or really all the children of same-sex parents we know here I can think of (and you bet we nervously ask each other about such things at our monthly get-togethers). The topic only comes up with our kids if we bring it up, aside from that nothing of an event I mentioned above. Our kids simply show no idea there is a "thing" about our family's difference, and, frankly, while I'm happy for that, it's kind of surprising. I've been bracing for at least a tough question here or there. I remember even a jewish friend telling me how different she felt her family was early on here in Utah, but our kids just don't seem to notice and their classmates don't seem to care.

Maybe the fact that they aren't even curious about our difference is a bit more evidence that things are changing quickly, even in Utah. If only it happened a decade before we got here.

Monday, April 20, 2009


Not much of an event, as this is not an election year, but on Saturday we had the Salt Lake County Democratic Convention. Both Rob and I are delegates, and so we are both obligated to go and represent our neighborhoods, even if all we have to vote on is vice chair and maybe the secretary. Our chairman ran unopposed, but he's a good guy, brought into politics during the gay clubs fights many years ago. It just seems important for our representatives to see us involved, to keep us in mind; not to mention the fact that I want our caucus, the Stonewall caucus, to remain the largest in the county.

Because our only trusted baby sitters are out of town, the boys got to go and they were amazing in their patience and silence as candidate after candidate came through to ask for endorsements. To look at them you'd think they were 100% engrossed in their coloring, but Brian must have been listening as he asked me what "redistricting" means on the way home :-).

I hope they do take something away from such experiences. I hope they fold them into their future as a normal part of being a citizen. I have only been so involved in politics for about six years now, and it is clearly no coincidence that our boys are six years old. Their birth changed us in many ways, of course. I regret that it took becoming a parent to put a fire under me, but without them I'd probably be content as just another quiet guy, concerned mainly with what goes on in his home and his lab.

However... Sunday we spent the morning up in Ferguson Canyon. I used to spend a lot of time hiking and rock climbing up there with friends as a teen. Man, I remember going up there some weekend nights... It's a good thing I was always the designated driver, as wild teens and cliffs at night do not mix well even while sober :-). It's surprising, in retrospect, no one got seriously hurt. Anyway, it's one of our favorite places to take the kids nowadays.

We hiked up and sat by the stream and let the kids play with the dog in the water for about an hour. Nothing but the stream, my husband, a canopy of trees and the sounds of our kids playing... I just wish it didn't take Saturday to protect Sunday.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Meeting With the Enemy

Daniel will soon be meeting with a person who, well, didn't like him being at BYU or speaking up as an out gay man. He wrote a great response and now she has reconsidered and is looking to meet face-to-face.

I've spent maybe too much time searching out such folks and well know that feeling of walking into a room where you're sure you'll face some of the most horrible ideas about you and yours. I'd not say I'm any good at it, but I still do it because the fate of my family depends on resolving this conflict. I can say though I have, more often than not, been very happy I got past the discomfort and just did it.

So, for what it's worth, what I have learned:

I'd not look at face-to-face meetings with opponents as a debate. It's absolutely different if you have an audience and you're both on a panel or something. In that case you'll need to get right to it and have organized data and research at the ready. In the time you have, your opponent is a lost cause and it's your audience with the open minds. You'll have to be defensive and watch out for tactics like having your positions defined before you get a chance. I know because I, long ago, was on a panel thinking of it like it was a person-to-person meeting and I got pwned by Gayle Ruzicka :-). Won't let that happen again.

However, I'd see first person-to-person meetings under such circumstances as a time to develop the rapport that will be needed to discuss such topics productively in the future. It's pretty clear why this issue is stressing for gays, and it's clear there's a great asymmetry in potency: no anti-gay rights activist has resorted to suicide because the gays get the same rights they have. Some of that difference and insensitivity to it may need to be swallowed at first and some punches may need be adsorbed.

So, I'd first look to hear her out. While our fears are clear, the other side seems to have many different triggers, each with different answers. I'd try to figure out why exactly this holds so much "emotion and frustration" for her, and even if the reasons are demonstrably baseless, I'd let a lot slide for a later meeting. Still, I do take all the information I'd need in a debate, but would leave it in my backpack or car until she seemed to be asking you for facts about a fear expressed or question asked.

In short, I think Daniel's instinct to stay away from politics for now is a good one. Once a foundation is set, then I'd go on to pleading my case in later interactions.

A couple other things:

It's natural to feel that fight or flight reflex when you know you're approaching a confrontation. I get butterflies every first meeting with anti-gay activists. However, this person in question didn't come off as a seasoned stone-hearted anti-gay activist in her letters; more like someone caught up in the Prop 8 fight? I'd keep in mind, if you get nervous, that she may be more afraid of you, thinking of you as some big Act Up in-your-face hostile queer; that always calms me down. Just don't picture them nude; that's exactly what they'd expect :-).

Also, I don't care to remember how many times I've felt a friendship build with such opponents, feel, by their words, we've come to an understanding and mutual respect, and then find they turn on me and my family and their kind words change when they think they're just talking to their side. It's tough for me to not become invested; I feel myself doing it again with the Evangelicals I've been meeting with. I'm just saying, I'd be friendly, and open, but remember some humans were even able to "love" the gays they were torturing to death to gain what they thought was a heaven-granting confession, and we're just talking about stuff like taxes and health insurance here.I'd not put too much of myself into such relationships, anymore.

Lastly, meet in public, of course. There are crazies out there. Don't meet on BYU's campus either. I hear there's a gay reeducation dungeon buried deep below the Cougar Eat, and you don't want to make it easy to be dragged anywhere ;-).

Monday, April 13, 2009

Been Busy

Our boys recently had another belt promotion in their martial arts class. They are now "High-Yellows".

Brian, he may not yell the loudest or punch the hardest but he's all about the discipline and much more concerned for the technique:
So serious about it, he eagerly memorizes the forms and is almost too into the "discipline and self-control, Sir!", "courtesy and respect, Sir!" aspect of it. Each morning he hurries to do his list of chores to get check marks, which then go to gaining him stripes for his belt (His parents like that part of karate the best ;-)).

But, Alan, on the other hand, is about the power. He throws wild punches and swings his nunchucks like a furious little blender. Look at that face:

These twin sons we orbit give off such different light. But light is light and I wouldn't have it any other way.

It's striking, when you think about it, how much revolves around your children. I'm sure every parent sees this. These boys practically own the hearts of many people beyond their parents. We were there at the belt promotion with the biggest cheering section of any student, from both sets of grandparents to a great aunt. It's unfortunate so many look at offering legal rights and responsibilities to our homes as just a gay issue, but that interdependence in so many lives makes defending what we have all the more important.

Then, of course, as anyone following this blog for years would know, Easter is a big holiday for our family. Rob and I are responsible for the activities. We hide hundreds of eggs:

Some of the eggs have prize tickets they can use on toys.
That stuffed animal dog Alan has there is named Pico Gwuasala, and he's Mexican, or so I'm told.

For the older kids I usually do some sort of word puzzle for the prized golden egg, but this year and after much complaining that my puzzles were too tough (e.g.), we did a survivor sort of thing, starting with a peep-elbow race:
They then played marbles with eggs (which is much more difficult than it sounds):
We also did a sudoku relay race (which was more fun than it sounds :-)), and in the final trial the three left standing were given a sack of materials to be built into protection for an egg dropped from the roof. Anyway, it was a great party.

Then, on Sunday, we had brunch with those closest to us:
It's funny, I know, for a gay man or any man for that matter, that I've been very lucky, blessed in the area of family, and weeks like this week really drive that point home. That's what makes the decisions that have to be made this summer so difficult, stressing. If only we were surrounded by homophobic jerks ;-).

Thursday, April 09, 2009


Hey, I'm hoping some of you can help.

Alan is really coming along with his reading recently, but we're having a hard time finding him material he enjoys reading rather than is coerced into reading. However, he loves action and superheros, and so I thought of trying some comic books to see if that would get him to look forward to reading.

Now, I know nothing about comic books, but I have the impression some who hang out around here have experience. Can anyone recommend something? It must be tame enough for a 1st grader, but have enough action to keep him interested. Thanks.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Two Things

In the midst of my tub/sudoku ritual this morning I hear an unbelievable commercial on the radio. I thought it must be a parody. Then I searched the company's name and found that no, it's an actual company advertising on a Utah radio station. I could only find a tv spot:

Check out the web site: here.


That's right, T *bleebing* M.

How can I raise my children in a world with such prurient and unchecked promotion of what I have to assume is the heterosexual lifestyle? There ought to be a constitutional amendment.

Okay, all joking aside, how terrible is that? People will mobilize to constitutionally keep loving couples, parents even, from having legal equality in rights and responsibilities, but over 3 million people are using this "dating" service for people, who may be legally married, but wouldn't know a marriage if it took their children and half of all they considered theirs. You have to laugh to keep from, well, the horrible reality of it.

Then I saw this story:

"Caption gaffe: Apostates, instead of Apostles 'worst possible mistake'"

A BYU paper listed the 12 apostles as the 12 apostates. I'm sure the FLDS see it as God working through Word's spell checker, but it's probably just a silly mistake.

However, "the 12 apostates" did give me an idea.

I'll be accepting resumes through the week.

We are looking for charismatic, dynamic go-getters. Applicants must have strong leadership skills, but must also be able to work in a group. Those with any remnant of goodness or decency left in them need not apply.

Applicant must have at least 2 years of professional experience undermining the cherished beliefs of others, or equivalent experience in a 4-year degree in Gender Studies or Evolutionary Biology. Must show working knowledge of the Necronomicon, Excel, and PowerPoint. Multilingual a plus.

Eleven positions are open in this elite, super secret and diabolical organization. Apply now!

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Good Times

For each year of our boy's life, and even through the process of becoming parents, I've gathered all our many pictures and videos and put them to music on dvd. I swear they must be the most photographed children in history; it would probably take a good 6 hours to watch all those dvds.

Yesterday they were off with their grandparents and so I decided to start on the 6 to 7 year video. A couple days ago Brian told me this song was his "favorite song ever, because it's Icelandic" :-):

Which is cool, because I like the song too. So I started out with that and then looked to add our pictures. I found that the first photos from that month just happened to be from our legal marriage in California, last August.

Remember that? How nice that was before we knew how the story would progress?

This year will forever begin in our family record with that wonderful weekend.

It made me laugh, looking over those photos again. What a great couple of days; it seemed like we'd finally made it over the hill and time would quickly take care of the rest. We were actually in a place where, if something happened to me, I knew my family would be treated as family should be treated. Sure, it wasn't the whole load off, but it was some relief, and I felt I could let down my guard.

And it didn't end there. What a great month: married in Ca, helped my cousin with her art exhibit in Helper, attended a nephew-in-law's wedding in Moab, and had our huge family reunion in Sun Valley. It was a near perfect month, made all the better by the fact that I knew my husband and kids had this added bit of legal protection.

I'll put the video of August I have below, though you'll have to imagine in the song (Not yet in my life have I violated copyright law, and I'm kind of hoping to avoid it just to see if I can :-)).

Anyway, that's what I want to get back to. I finished putting this video together from our August marriage to our February Hawaii trip and it really put what has happened this year into condensed perspective; each snap shot fading in and out in seconds jogs the memory of weeks.

I watched this video as it makes it to November and past, and read those two posts after Proposition 8 won (or, heck, most of my posts since) and can see this sense of being pathetically unable to protect my family take hold in me, and I feel I'm just now getting a hold on it, even though I naively thought it'd be a matter of days back on November 5th. So, yeah, thank you for your patience :-). It's taken too long but I will reassemble an optimistic sense of fairness, my sense of the public's standards of evidence, and my sense of what to expect from strangers. I'll reassemble where I was 8 months ago.

If Ca doesn't decide soon, maybe we should just head off to Iowa; speed up the process :-).

Friday, April 03, 2009

Class Warfare

So, again, last Tuesday we spoke to a class about the family up at the U. We've done this a number of times, about once a year since our boys were born.

Gayle Ruzicka of Utah's Eagle Forum, Paul Mero of the Sutherlan Institute, and a couple other anti-marriage equality activists had already spoken to the same class. We were there to make the case for marriage for gay and lesbian couples.

I don't think there's much point in going over the arguments. I've got all my arguments for marriage up in detail and with many referees here and here, and my counter arguments to people like Mrs. Ruzicka and Mr. Mero here. So I'll just go over what stuck out to my mind then:

--I thought Senator McCoy made a good closing remark. Something to the tune of "If you pay attention to their arguments, you'll see all they have is fear. Don't buy into their fear." They have predictions of the family crumbling, church's being forced to close, and such, and those do sell. They have scared a lot of people (Look at Beck's experience, with a S.I. follower for a great example). No, we can't in good concious make similar threats, even if they work. But I have to think, especially when their predictions are so demonstrably false is places with equal rights, that hope for equality and facts will win the day.

--We were talking about how legal marriage helps give gay men and women a path and structure on which to build strong relationships, as it does for many heterosexuals. The topic of gay promiscuity came up and was related to the fact that most all gay men are not guided into dating or responsible relationships, like straight men often are, by their parents, church, or society. I brought up the fact that, when I came out, my parents expected nothing different of me, and I feel that's one of the biggest reasons I've only ever had one sexual partner. Out of the audience then came the observation that Gayle Ruzicka has had more sexual partners than I have, that she's been divorced! If true, I wish, the next time we're in the same room, I could muster the sort of "I love you all but you're so-called family is a civilization-destroying abomination" thing she puts off. Ah, but who am I kidding? I may have thought that way about divorce when I was a young Chrstian and took the Bible's word on it (That's Mat 5:32, and Mal 2:16, Gayle ;-)), but, even if divorced, I'm sure she has a good reason for her family choices, reasons for which I'll even want to give her the sort of rights and responcibilities she'd not return.

--That other team must be losing it. They must see that long arc of history doesn't have much further to go for the gay community (For example, Iowa!). It came up a couple times how the students felt the anti-marriage equality group came there ranting, angry, and were even belligerent on some questions. They were relieved we weren't the same way. Heck, I always go to these things and encourage the students to ask the tough questions, those they're afraid to ask right up front; I told them to feel free to "rough us up a bit". One student observed that the other side really didn't even present anything like a cogent argument as much as fear mongering, which made me feel good to be there with the research under my belt collected for isocrat.org.

--Lastly, we've got some great folks in our local gay community; there were about 4 other people on the pannel with me and they all brought something unique and important to the table. Thank goodness, because they don't teach us scientists how to do speaking or politics particularly well :-).

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Popcorn in Coffee

Last night we spoke to a class at the U about marriage. Gayle Ruzicka of Utah's Eagle Forum, and Paul Mero of the Sutherlan Institute spoke to the same class a week before and we were to give the other side.

I'm sure I'll get into that some other time, but, this being April Fool's day, I'm pretty sure I'm required to keep from the serious on a blog post.

However, I can't think of anything funny and so I'll aim for cute :-).

While we were talking to the class, Brian was "working" on my computer. When we were done I came to find a couple stories and poems that I think are in need of publication:
Chapter 1(The Sick Bunny)
The Sick Bunny
The bunny threw up.He was sick. He went to the doctor.The doctor couldn’t find any thing wrong.
So the bunny went back home.He ate three jelly beans.The next day he woke up,brushed his teeth
and ate breakfast.He felt really better!He took the whole day without any sickness.He lived happily
ever after.The end.

Chapter 2(Tree Seasons)
Tree Seasons
In the spring my tree begins green.
In the summer my tree puts on a green cloak.
In the fall my tree puts on brown, yellow and red.
In the winter my tree is the color black.

Chapter 3(Popcorn)
Pop,pop, pop, on the pan.
I smell popcorn that is tan.
So,so salty.
I wonder what it taste
like in coffee.
I had to delete some as he began writing a poem about our last name :-). Also, no; gay parents do not let their 6-year-old children drink coffee. It seems it's just a the first word that came to mind when finding a rhyme with 'salty'. Nor do we give our child jelly beans to cure sickness, though they may want a world in which they got that instead of Children's Motrin :-).