30 June 2015

San Francisco Pride

Squid hats!
San Francisco was a sea of rainbows on Sunday. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many LGBT people in one place, let alone people period. There were flags on street poles, flags in the parade, flags in the crowd and visible gestures of happy pride from San Francisco businesses. There were even rainbow squid hats!

Over a million people were estimated to have attended the pride festivities this weekend. The parade lasted for some six hours. Civic Center was closed off for blocks and large crowds listened to music on several stages. Most of the day was celebratory and peaceful. Given a gathering of that magnitude (and that it was pride in San Francisco), there were also a few obligatory nude folks (it’s almost never the people one wants to see naked that are the self-appointed exhibitioners, right?), and a few other annoyances like excessive trash on the streets.

Some photos: 

Panorama of parade attendees along Market Street.
Jim Obergefell, who was the lead plaintiff in last week's Supreme Court case.
Civic Center
Many welcome signs.
Steve Grand performing at the main stage at Civic Center.
The Apple contingent in the parade They must have had 5000 marchers. It went on forever.
Happy pride!

27 June 2015

All over the map

It’s here! By a narrow 5-4 vote at the Supreme Court, gay marriage is now legal across the United States of America. Just 10 years ago, few would have been able to imagine this day.

Gay marriage did not arrive at our doorstep yesterday because of five “rogue” justices in the Supreme Court. In fact, in ruling after ruling over the last couple years, state and federal judges at various levels have overwhelmingly been on the side of marriage equality.

Gay marriage did not come to the country because LGBT people, who only represent 3-4% of all Americans, somehow pushed their minority views on the will of the majority. In fact, well over half of all Americans now support marriage equality, a rapid evolution in public sentiment over the last decade.

Marriage equality did not become the law of the land because there is some conspiracy to destroy “religious freedom”. Churches will carry on as they always have – First Amendment rights intact – but they each have been reminded by the court’s action that their specific moral beliefs cannot be imposed on others through law in a pluralistic society.

Rather, gay marriage came to America, because as slow as we can be to correct historical wrongs, justice usually finds its place in our society. As parochial as we often are in our politics, the greater American tradition we all share stands for equality, community, and respect for diversity.

Marriage equality is now here because many good Americans have come to better know the LGBT people in their lives. Gay people have been coming out, younger and confidently, to their friends and families. Our community has greater visibility than ever before, and in listening to our stories, our straight friends have chosen love and understanding over tired stereotypes and misinformation.

Personally, my awakening came later in life than some of my gay peers; I only came out to family and friends some five years ago. Of course like most gay people, I knew I liked, and even fell in love with, my same sex far back into my youth. But for too long, I feared my sexuality and the judgment that might come my way. My religion, which should have been a place of refuge, told me in subtle and unsubtle ways that homosexuality was evil, perverse, and could only lead to unhappiness. I didn’t confront these false ideas, but instead retreated inside. I married an amazing woman instead of a beautiful man. And so ... complicated as it is, we're doing our best to move forward.

On this weekend of gay pride, my thoughts have been all over the map. I’m truly happy for my gay friends who have, or who will soon, marry. Their relationships are no longer inferior in the eyes of the state. They have all the legal protections and benefits that the government confers on straight married couples. I am happy for the young people, including my sweet children, who are now growing up in a nation that shows more acceptance and more equality than a decade ago. I am happy that coming out today is easier for young gay people and that they have more hope than ever that their futures will be proud and bright.

Because my own path as a gay person has been unconventional, there have been other thoughts and emotions too along this journey. I admit to being a little envious of my gay friends who are married or in relationships. Deep down I want a loving same-sex relationship, the experience of having feelings of romance flow naturally. Observing the excitement of gay couples I wonder a bit: did history pass me by this weekend because I chose to suppress my sexuality for so long?

At a celebration at the California state capital last evening in the hot evening air, the crowd that gathered was reminded of the sacrifice of many LGBT pioneers who helped America reach this historic day. In thinking of my own journey, I’m glad to have participated in a tiny way in this conversation over the last several years. I’m a little embarrassed that I didn’t have enough courage to come out in high school, or college, or even graduate school, to embrace my own truth at a younger age. Perhaps I could have been an example for others who were struggling too. The generation of LGBT people that did come out in the 70s, 80s, and 90s are largely unknown names to me, but they were pioneers who made today’s road much smoother.

These are some of my disparate thoughts at this season in life. I’m not sure how I will feel about all of this in a decade or two. I have even less certainty about what my life will look like. The road over the last five years has been difficult emotionally. But I’ve been immensely fortunate to be on that journey with my spouse, a best friend whose compassion has few bounds. Despite the challenges, there is much more to celebrate than to worry about. All over the map, Americans can celebrate, whatever their circumstances, on this historic occasion. 

03 June 2015


Sunday evening I attended a fireside given by Carol Lynn Pearson at the LDS Institute in Berkeley. A Mormon poet and speaker who was married to a gay man before his death, she is essentially the godmother of the Mormon LGBT community. In many ways I don’t consider myself Mormon any longer, but the Church was an important part of my life for many years and for both good and bad, it has left deep influences on me.

Carol Lynn read from, and spoke about, a short book she produced recently that is an allegory for the gay person who travels through Mormonism. Her allegory was structured after the hero myth articulated in literature from ancient times to the present. Concisely, the myth centers around the hero who leaves his or her tribe on a journey of discovery. Propelled internally to seek something more, the hero leaves the tribe for an unknown destination. Arriving in an unfamiliar place, he or she struggles and must choose to confront self doubt – the voices of defeat.

One symbol of the struggle is the sword – a weapon that could either be turned on oneself for destruction or that could be used to destroy the self doubt that brings darkness. Though not all people on the journey will necessarily gain the liberating self confidence they need, those that pass successfully through their own personal transformation could then chose to return to their tribe of origin to share their new understanding. The hero was transformed, and members of the tribe, also each on their own journeys of enlightenment, could be transformed too.

I’d like to share two points that impressed me from Sister Pearson’s words. The first was a simple concept – it was her advice that LGBT people strive to be so confident in their path, so fully at peace with themselves that others around them, no matter their views on sexuality, could not help but be impressed. In essence, to help change the culture of the tribe, the gay messengers have to be completely transformed themselves.

Her second point, surely more difficult than the first, was that to be successful the hero needs to return to the tribe disarmed. This was an admonition for forgiveness, for peace with those who may have intentionally (or unintentionally) wounded another. I think most gay Mormons could rightly say that they have been wounded by a Church (and a society) that at times acts more as an enemy than a refuge. But for the wounded gay person to find happiness and wholeness, forgiveness is required. 

I confess that right now I am not yet at such a place with respect to the Church. Perhaps I feel betrayed in a sense (and not just by sexuality, but by conflicts with history and science too). I feel sad that Church culture and doctrine are still such an unhealthy place for many gay Mormons. But moving beyond those negative feelings it is a worthy goal and the direction I want to go over time. When the sword of bitterness and hostility is tossed aside, again the tribe cannot but be impressed with who the gay hero really is.   

As I left the fireside meeting Sunday evening and began to browse social media on my phone, I quickly saw that two good gay Mormon friends of mine had just become engaged to be married. Since they’ve been dating seriously for several years, that wasn’t unexpected, but learning of the news really filled me with happiness for them. As we’ve talked over the years, I’ve come to know some about their own personal struggles of self acceptance, family acceptance and journey through Mormonism. So, it is wonderful to see them in a place of happiness and fulfillment. I feel a tinge of jealousy too when I learn such news - a happy same-sex relationship is a significant dream of mine. But I mostly feel happiness for my good friends, and I wish them the very best in the future.

As Carol Lynn noted Sunday evening, our tribe (Mormonism) doesn’t make it easy for us. Almost simultaneously coming out as gay, leaving the Church, navigating raw emotional experiences, and working through changing realities in a mixed orientation marriage is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done. In many ways gay people are not heroes. We are ordinary people with the same fears and need for love and acceptance as anyone else. But we go through an unusual journey, one not shared by most people in the world. To pass through that journey, emerging with greater self acceptance, maybe a partner at one’s side, and love in one’s heart is the best possible outcome for LGBT Mormons.