Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Riding TRAX as a gay guy...

Last night TBM and I had another interesting evening. Instead of driving, we decided to make it a public transportation activity. We jumped on TRAX at the 2100 South station, rode it to the Regional Medical Center and then caught a bus to “Little Mexico”, about 5400 West.

It was one heck of a trip. More than just a ride on public transport, it was an eye-opening experience on a variety of levels. For a guy who has spent most of his adult life sheltered by a cocoon reserved for the Mormon upper middle class, meeting real people, learning about their real lives, and doing it all with an open mind and no judgment was an education of fundamental proportions.

The first person TBM and I met was a middle aged woman who sat next to us on the first leg of our trip. Our conversation was brief, but revealing. After saying hello and introducing myself, I asked the woman how many gay people she thought were in our car.

Her response surprised me. “Well, I know there are at least three of us,” she said with a smile. TBM and I broke into a laugh that she quickly joined. She then spent our remaining time together telling us about her partner with whom she had lived for seven years, their children and their remarkably normal lives. Her commitment to her family was inspiring. When we left the train some time later, I felt hope that long term gay relationships aren’t just possible, but with work might actually last forever.

After an amazingly delicious dinner of fish tostadas and chicken enchiladas at a grubby little Mexican restaurant in an area that seemed more like Tijuana than Utah, we decided to share a leche dulce at a nearby supermarket, El Rancho.  The store, like the area, was Latin top to bottom. We couldn't find anyone that spoke English. Of the hundred plus customers cramming the aisles, TBM and I were the only Anglos—until an elderly man approached us who was obviously more northern European than not.

“What are you two doing in a place like this?” he asked incredulously. We smiled. He smiled. And then we began to talk. The course of the conversation inevitably turned to the fact that TBM and I are gay. The man was respectful and incredulous, especially when TBM recounted my history of church service. “How,” he asked, “could you serve in the Church as a gay man?” When TBM volunteered that I had even been asked to speak in my ward Sacrament Meeting on Easter Sunday, he was stunned. “You must have a very kind bishop,” he said.

“I have an inspired bishop,” I responded.

Then he added with more than a little thought, "Sometimes bishops are more inspired than church leaders. I think the Brethren are no different than the rest of us. They're just trying to do the best they can."

I nodded sympathetically. The man handed TBM and me a pass-along card about the resurrection, wished God’s blessing upon us, and went his way.  

Again boarding public transit, we continued to meet interesting people with interesting stories, a bus driver who wished he could carry a handgun, a pool tournament organizer who is marrying his mail order bride in a matter of weeks, and a cardiac ultrasound technician who is saving the world, one life at a time. Each person we met had a story and each was anxious to hear ours. When we parted, we parted as new found friends, uplifted, enriched, and a bit more sensitive to the burdens we each are required to carry. 

As TBM and I sat on the last leg of our journey recounting the remarkable events of the evening, reveling somewhat in the uniqueness of our experience as homosexual men meeting the world, the man sitting in front of us turned, smiled, and said, “ Isn't being gay wonderful.”

“Yes it is,” I replied. “Yes it is.”

Monday, March 28, 2011

Our visit to a blue collar bar: "There's a pair of fags..."

Last Friday night TBM* and I joined several guys at the Magna--yes, Magna--community theater production of Man of La Mancha. I hadn't seen the musical since playing the padre in my high school senior year and thought revisiting Spain during the time of the Catholic Inquisition somewhat appropriate given my current situation. Besides, the friend of a friend directed the play, so attending was sort of a holy act of obligation.

And Magna...visiting Magna was like visiting 1975. It reminded me of Happy Days with a rougher edge. (I actually expected to see Richie sitting across the theater and was more than a little disappointed when he didn't show.) Anyway, I doubt much has changed since the mid-70's--the narrow main street, the brick storefronts, the line of bars one after the other.

Suffice it to say that Magna is the most blue collar town I've ever seen--in my life (?).

After La Mancha, TBM and I were walking back to the car when one of the bars we approached began calling our names, louder and louder the closer we got. Having never frequented a bar in a blue-collar town, we decided against our better judgment to investigate.

Opening the door confirmed everything I imagined a blue collar bar would be. The dark, run-down saloon was crammed with cowboys, miners, and their women knocking back one drink after another. As my eyes skimmed the room, I instinctively noticed TBM and I had suddenly become the focus of everyone's attention. To underscore the general discomfort of the bar's patrons, a woman some twenty feet away mouthed to her drinking partners, "A pair of fags."

The cowboys at her table stared at us in a most threatening and unwelcoming way.

Well, I thought, this could be interesting.

After taking a deep breath, I made a bee line for the woman's table and immediately struck up a conversation with everyone drinking near her. Initially, the group was a little reticent about talking with a "fag", but as the conversation progressed, their natural affability kicked in to overdrive. Before we knew it, we were discussing  the weather, the bar and Magna in general. Much to the consternation of their male admirers, the women were cooing over TBM in particular, praising his "beautiful face and nice ass."

When the band struck up a song, two of the women asked us to dance. I have to admit that this made me a bit uncomfortable. Despite the fact that they obviously knew we were "batting for the other team," I didn't want to incite any jealousy on the part of their attending barflies. Although TBM tried to maintain his distance and particularly tried to avoid dancing, the women found his handsome demeanor irresistible and within minutes we were both on the dance floor boogying with a pair of inebriated bar gals, much to their delight and our consternation.

After a couple of dances, I helped my wobbly partner to her table. Finally regaining her balance, she put her arm around my neck and held me close. Then she said, "You know, I really like gays. I teach Sunday School at the Magna Bible Church and I know what the Bible says about you. I really do worry that you're going to burn in Hell. I don't even like to think about it." She then began weeping and collapsed in her tears on the drink-laden table.

This was the signal for TBM and me to make our escape. As we bid our farewells, our new friends seemed honestly disappointed at our departure. They each gave us hugs and demanded we return soon. As we walked from the table to the door, I heard one of the women ask her male companion with more than a little disappointment in her voice, "Why can't you be more like them? And why are all the best guys gay?"

*To understand a bit about my relationship with TBM, see the following posts: February 19, 23, March 1, 3, and 5. We continue to see each other 3-4 times a week. Why? For my part, it's because I enjoy his company as much or more than anyone I know. For him, I have absolutely no idea.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Gay cinema: My favorite movies...

As a closeted gay man, I had little opportunity to relate to the gay world in any meaningful way. In fact, much of my emotional energy was spent ensuring that my public connection with homosexuality remained seemingly nonexistent. The entire experience, as I've blogged before, was emotionally and spiritually devastating.

The one source of relief during the last ten years of my "heterosexual" life was gay cinema--not pornography, mind you, but films that were made to actually tell a story and move the viewer.

Interestingly, I saw my first gay-themed movie when I was young. I was in Amsterdam on business and had some time to kill. I walked past a theater and saw a billboard of two young and beautiful men holding each other tenderly. The movie was Maurice, an Ivory/Merchant film based on the EM Forster novel by the same name. I was immediately captivated, entered the theater and watched the movie three times.

Through the last years of my marriage I collected nearly every gay-themed movie I could find. Some of them are beautiful visually and emotionally like Brokeback Mountain and Maurice, and some are so inane that even typing their names on this blog is a waste of effort.

All in all, however, these movies served as a window into the world in which I wanted more than anything else to escape. They gave me hope that it might just be possible to one day find myself free from the bonds with which I was bound. They taught me that being gay is good and noble and that I had nothing to fear about swinging wide the closet door.

Because many readers of this blog appreciate and find value in gay cinema, I thought it helpful to provide you a summary of those movies that I have most appreciated. While I'm sure you have probably all seen my favorites, one or two might be new to you and worth your time.

Today, I will share with you the five gay-themed films that I found particularly enjoyable.

Brokeback Mountain. This movie was the story of the direction my life might have taken had I remained in Wyoming as a boy. Although BBM was actually filmed in Alberta, the mountains and prairies, the towns and people, evoked a vivid reminder of the place where I spent some of my happiest moments of my childhood and youth. To me this is no mere movie, but an actual glimpse into a world that might have been. Ennis and Jack aren't mere characters in a movie, their the guys I grew up with. As a result, I still can't watch BBM without being moved at the deepest level.

Maurice. This Ivory/Merchant adaptation of EM Forster's book is a moving story of two young men who meet, fall in love, and then struggle with their relationship within the moral constraints of post-Victorian England. While Clive Durham (my alias for this blog, BTW) chooses to follow the traditional path, his lover Maurice continues to struggle with his sexuality, eventually finding happiness in living an honest life. As with many Merchant/Ivory productions (Room with a View, Howard's End, The Bostonians, etc.) the film's rich texture and amazing cinematography make movie watching a true delight.

Latter-days. I love this movie simply because it is about a gay Mormon missionary. My "best two years" was one of the most difficult times of my life. I identified with Aaron at every turn. The truth is that had I had a neighbor like Christian, I probably would have made the same decisions Aaron made. Speaking of Aaron, Steve Sandvoss may not be the best actor in the world, but in this movie he is appealing. Between his humble, shy, devoted demeanor and his amazing backside, he's worth watching regardless of his acting ability (or lack thereof).

Get Real. There is something about watching a high school hotty falling for a school newspaper nerd that I find very appealing. This British made for TV film is surprisingly well acted with an interesting, though at times contrived, story line. While the hotty is definitely a hotty and the nerd more than a little nerdy, they actually create chemistry that makes you feel good about them and their relationship. Admittedly, the whole issue of coming out was not handled in the most realistic manner; it gave me tremendous pause about my own life of duplicity.

Bent. This is a deeply moving film about two gay men who find love amidst the horror of Dachau. With a stellar cast including Clive Owen, Ian McKellen, Mick Jagger, Jude Law, and Lothaire Bluteau, this beautifully crafted movie is a lesson in contrasts--love and lust, decadence and decency, devotion and indifference. If the closing scenes do not leave you emotionally drained, you honestly don't deserve your gay card.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Thank goodness the atonement is universal...

Over the last several weeks I have enjoyed Invictus Pilgrim's ongoing reasoned response to what I believe was a disingenuous question posted by Anonymous/Bryan, a Latter-day Saint zealot intent on defending outdated doctrine, much of which the Church itself no longer officially accepts. (To read IP's posts, which I think are wonderful, go here:

While Invictus Pilgrim continues to explain in clear simple terms the issues that those of us who are gay and Mormon must confront on a daily basis, Anonymous/Bryan with closed-minded determination refuses to bend. He is committed to his beliefs that homosexuality is a choice, that homosexuals are "impure and unnatural", and that unless we remain in the closet, denying our true selves, we are destined for...

Destined for what, Anonymous/Bryan? That's the question I would like to ask you. What are we who choose to live our lives as honest, open, good, gay men and women destined for? Hell, brimstone, Eternal punishment?

Hate to say this AB, but if that's what you're thinking, you need another year of seminary.

Last night as I read one more of AB's predictable, tedious diatribes, I had a bit of a revelation. I came to the remarkable understanding that we gay people need to cut Anonymous/Bryan a little slack. My suspicion is that he is an earnest young gay man devoted to the Gospel, just trying to do his best to "support the Brethren."

Weren't nearly all of us MOM guys and gals like him when we were 25 years old and naive about ourselves, our lives and the world in which we were doing our best to survive undetected?

One day, Anonymous/Bryan will wake in the morning like most of us have done and realize that the pain and anguish of living a lie is too much to bear.

It's then that he will remember with horror his comments on this blog and realize that what he wrote as a message of enlightenment and faith was actually nothing more than regurgitated hate and bigotry.

Thank goodness the atonement of Christ is universal. That means there is hope for those of us who are "impure and unnatural" as well as for bigots and hate mongers like Anonymous/Bryan.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Speak the truth...

Yesterday the Gospel Doctrine lesson focused on Christ's effort to teach truth and his use of parables, his favorite teaching tool. It was through parables that Christ taught truth in a way that those who heard his words best understood and believed his message.

And how does this apply to you and me? I think, like Christ, we gay men and woman have an obligation to teach the truth. We must help the world see us for who we are. Through teaching truth, ignorance, fear, and bigotry are overcome by knowledge, love and acceptance.

Like Christ, we must stand as witnesses of that truth about ourselves and our lives at all times and in all places. We must be willing to kindly yet clearly spread the Good News that being gay is a gift from God, that we are worthy men and women who are created in His image, that He loves us and answers our prayers, and that this knowledge brings us joy.

As Christ used parables, we must find the right way to spread the truth, perhaps through parables, allegory, or analogy; perhaps directly, simply, sincerely. The important point is that for the Spirit to bear witness of this truth to those we teach, it must be shared with kindness, meekness and love, avoiding contention, anger and conflict.

I believe it is good for us to step from under the shadow of complacency and fear. It is good for us to stand in the light of day and speak clearly, thoughtfully, with the conviction of our cause. There are many among us in our community who have long shouldered the burden of truth and to them we owe a great debt. As a result of their efforts, the world has changed from the way it was.

But more change is required. It is time for all of us to step out forcefully, fearlessly, united in our conviction. As the world sees our numbers and our virtue, it cannot help but appreciate our value.

If we fail to take up this challenge, the Destroyer will continue to spread misunderstanding, falsehood, bigotry, and hate--unopposed. In the end, evil will triumph.

This alternative is unacceptable for us and for those who come after us. How much better a world built on a foundation of truth and love. It is possible.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The universal nature of the Gospel...

Over the last week, my friend Invictus Pilgrim, has responded thoughtfully, sincerely and logically in a number of posts to what I believe was a disingenuous question left on his blog. (To read IP's posts, which I think are wonderful, go here:

In my frustration at the ongoing contention and arrogance perpetrated by this anonymous commentor who recently began calling himself Bryan, I wrote a long angry essay condemning him and his ilk for the close minded bigotry toward homosexuality they continue to propagate among members of the Church as truth. Fortunately, I lost the diatribe in a page change.

Let me say instead that Bryan and those like him have a serious doctrinal problem themselves. They seem to be blind to the universal nature of the Gospel. They, like the pharisees of old, are so caught up in the letter of the law, the black and white, the right and wrong, that they fail to understand that Christ's arms are open to ALL his sons and daughters, especially gay ones. ("Come unto me, ALL ye that labor and are heavy laden....") They also fail to remember that in the end Christ wants ALL of his children, every one, to have joy. ("Men are [not just righteous men] that they might have joy.")

To illustrate the universality of the Gospel, I find it interesting that Jesus spent most of his ministry surrounded by sinners, those who the "worthy" members of the Church of his time refused to countenance. But regardless of the opinions of the "righteous", Christ was there. He performed miracles. He healed souls. He showed love.

One of the most touching stories in scripture involves Christ's conversation with the woman at the well. The "worthy" members castigated Jesus because he was unwilling to condemn an adulteress. When caught in their sophistry, these "worthy" brethren slinked from Christ's presence.

Alone with the woman, knowing full well the extent of her sin, Jesus simply asked, "Where are thine accusers?" And when the situation was clear, whispered to the woman, "Neither do I condemn thee. Go and sin no more."

When I approach the judgment bar I hope I will have love in my heart for my God and my neighbor. If that is my end, I have confidence in receiving the approbation of my Savior. His atonement will have paid my debt and I will be whole. The anger and hostility of those who hate and contend will be forgotten and in contrast, I will forever have a heart filled with joy.

That is ultimately what I wish for Anonymous/Bryan, that he might come to terms with all of this as many of us gay men and women have. In so doing, I am confident that he, too, will ultimately stand approved before God and find the joy that he deserves.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Hey, guys! Cosmo is queer!

BYU is rife with homophobia. So much so that a bit of hand-holding, a simple kiss, or a casual comment about homosexuality can result in immediate suspension or even expulsion.

The big secret around BYU, Cougar fans, is that the number one cat on campus, Cosmo, is actually gay. (Before you write me a disparaging email for outing Cosmo, let me freely admit that I know outing a closeted gay man teeters on the edge of immorality. But folks, Cosmo's not a man. He's a cat. My conscience is clear!)

I was suspicious the first time I saw Cosmo the Cougar run onto the field way back when. He gave off more than a subtle vibe--his prancing gait, the ever so slightly bent tip of his swooshing tail, his obvious devotion to grooming and product all were subtle signs that Cosmo may not be batting for the home team. The giveaway, however, was the fact that when the boys took the field, his eyes lingered on those broad shoulders and narrow hips just a bit too long and his excitement was just a wee more obvious than that of the typical male fan--if you know what I mean...

So I've had my suspicions for years, but no proof--until today.

Browsing the gay videos on YouTube (I love the gay videos on YouTube), I finally got the evidence I needed to prove what I'd known all along.

It just so happens, Cosmo (who, like my roomy, went to France on his mission) has been doing French television commercials on the side to earn a bit of scratch. And what kind of commercials does Cosmo make? Let's say they contain more than just a little man-on-man--"interaction"(?).

You be the judge, but if I were Cosmo, I'd be shivering in the corner of my closet right now. (I can't wait to hear what the Honor Code Office has to say about this...)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Bottom line...we're really playing rugby!

Sorry, Joe, but I just couldn't pass this picture up. Tomorrow's guys will definitely have clothes. I promise!

This last year I've become quite a rugby fan. There is nothing like the looks of a scrum (admittedly, I'm an ass man), the power of a ruck (real man-on-man contact is always stimulating,) or the thrill of a try (scoring is the objective of any man-game, right?). Whether it's the All Blacks, the Springboks, the Lions, the Jaguars or the Leopards, it doesn't matter. I'm hooked.

It wasn't until today that I discovered the reason behind this new found passion. The YouTube segment below explains everything, much to my satisfaction. I think it will help you understand why you love rugby, too.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

"Will the Mormon God answer the prayers of a queer?"

Last week I was visiting with an acquaintance, a gay man with an LDS background, about my faith. It's surprising to many people that despite coming out and being unrepentant about who I am, I still anchor my life on the rock of the Gospel. While many people would consider me to be a "cafeteria Mormon" and as a result, somehow inferior, my approach works for me and I'm grateful to feel the love of Christ in my life.

In the course of my conversation with this man, the topic of prayer arose. When I frankly admitted that I continue to pray morning and evening, the man was amazed. "You think the Mormon God will actually answer the prayers of a queer?"

The road not taken...

        Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
        And sorry I could not travel both
        And be one traveler, long I stood
        And looked down one as far as I could
        To where it bent in the undergrowth;

        Then took the other, as just as fair,
        And having perhaps the better claim,
        Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
       Though as for that the passing there
       Had worn them really about the same,

       And both that morning equally lay
       In leaves no step had trodden black.
       Oh, I kept the first for another day!
       Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
       I doubted if I should ever come back.

       I shall be telling this with a sigh
      Somewhere ages and ages hence:
      Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
      I took the one less traveled by,
      And that has made all the difference.

                                    by Robert Frost

As a gay man coming out later in life, this poem is particularly poignant.

I have often wondered why it is entitled, "The Road Not Taken" when the verse itself is about the road the poet actually took.... What is Frost trying to teach us?

I think I understand and I thank God that unlike Robert Frost, I was able to return to the nexus where I originally chose my course .

And because I had courage to retrace my steps and start my journey a second time, it has in fact made all the difference.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Men are that they might have joy...

The following comment was left on the blog of a friend of mine today and while the intention of the post was I'm sure sincere, to me it showed tremendous ignorance of the plight of the married gay Latter-day Saint. I can't help but ask this person, have you actually met and spoken with a Moho about the unbearable pain of living as a Mormon straight man in a gay person's body? Here is gist the comment:

"Up to this point [in your life], you've been a faithful member of the Church, paid your tithing, etc. So, [because you're middle-aged] you've only got 40% of life to go and if you can just keep on the path for that last stretch, you'll very likely receive exaltation and be together with your family...On the other hand, if you choose to live a homosexual lifestyle, you've got roughly 20 [years to sow your wild oats]. Are those 20 years worth...what you're giving up?"--Anonymous

My response to this sincere, yet condescending comment is as follows:

Saturday, March 5, 2011

I love breathers and another TBM update...

Those of you who read Thursday's post already know that I decided to take a breather this weekend. I intentionally determined to schedule nothing--no dates, no projects, no dinners, no parties, and very little work--in order to alleviate the "thinness" I was experiencing.

While in Thursday's post I laid blame for my condition equally on a variety of issues, in reality there is only one issue that caused my emotions to fray. More on that later.

Friday, the first day of my breather, couldn't have been better.I awoke to the most beautiful morning Salt Lake City has seen in months. The sun was brilliant, the sky was a robin's egg blue, the mountains literally vibrated with the intensity of color.

As a result, the call of the wild was impossible to ignore. As quickly as it took to pick up a friend and drive to Powder Mountain, we were gliding down slopes covered with 14 inches of freshly fallen snow.

A day of skiing couldn't have been a better way to start a weekend breather. In all my ski experience I have never skied a more perfect day with more perfect conditions. It was a gift from God...something I'll remember for the rest of my life.

I rushed home from the Mountain, gave my new roommate a quick hug, jumped in the shower and was off to a business meeting downtown. I was glad when the meeting was over.

As I walked to my car following the meeting, a thought struck me. It was a frightening thought, a little intimidating, but one that percolated quickly. I'm only a few blocks from TBM's place (you remember The Butterfly Man from previous posts, right?), so why not text him and see if he was up for a late dinner.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

It's time for a breather...

Yes, I've been running at full speed for so long that it's time for a breather. I just need a little opportunity to relax, maybe watch a movie or two, and let things slow down a bit.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

My partner and a TBM update...

At the beginning of the year in a contemplative moment, I wrote a description of my future partner. A friend calls it my shopping list. I prefer to think of it as a description of the man who is searching for me.

This man and I, I think, are both wandering, seeking, wondering when our paths will intersect and our lives made one. We both know it will happen and are willing to let time be our guide. In the end, we are confident all will be well.

My partner is a kind man, gentle, bright, open and direct. He has traditional values and a commitment to monogamy. He is outgoing, a people person, adventurous, with a love of the outdoors.