Thanks Dad

It was a Sunday afternoon and my phone started to ring. It was my mom, it might seem normal to receive a call from your mother on a Sunday afternoon but not for me. My parents are extremely active in the LDS church. Their Sundays consist of church meeting fallowed by their callings as missionaries in the PASG program. They often do presentation and meeting all sunday long. So receiving this call on a day when they are so busy was a bit “A” typical. When I answered the phone my mom had obviously been crying, She said you would be so proud of your Dad. She went on to explain that they were having a lesson on Eternal Families in Sunday School, the lesson inevitably turned to gay marriage. My dad sat a listened for a minute but eventually he couldn’t stand it any longer. There was one man who was just going on and on about how awful the gays were, and how they were ruining marriage. My dad stood up and said “if your son (who happens to be gay) came to you and asked for the same joy you had, would you tell him no?” The lesson continues and more was said, my dad eventually got so tired of this mans ignorance that he got up and left the class. This might seem like a small matter, but it means the world to me. It shows my dad has grown to understand that my family is real. My dad is a very wise man, I respect what he has to say and so do many others. I am so grateful to have a dad that will do that for me. I know many people who aren’t so lucky.

This however begs the questions, should my dad have to defend me in church? Should he have to sit and listen to a member of his family be talked about in that way? It is men like that who take away the hope of young gay mormons. You hear statements like, “Gays are the whore of the earth.” or “all gay men are perverts and child molesters.” or “gay people are disgusting and they are all going to hell.” to name a few that I have heard first hand. These lead me to feel dirty and wrong for who I was, even though there was no changing it. I felt as if God had punished me or made a horrible mistake. It lead me, and thousands of others like me, to consider taking my own life, because no matter what you do this filth will always be a part of you. For what? Ignorance, fear, to feel somehow superior…. Well guess what, we are all created equal, and yes with differences. These differences are what makes the world beautiful and interesting. Open your mind, just because someone is different then you doesn’t make them wrong. If I had heard someone speak up, like my dad did, to these awful people it would have changed my life. I could have been saved a few bumps and bruises on my journey. So next time you hear someone say something disparaging against the gay community (or any other group of people) please stand up and say something. You never know what damage this person is doing, you can never know everyones story…. You might just save a life.

Over the Rainbow

I know many of us watched the Oscars recently. There was a tribute to the life and career of Judy Garland, P!NK performed Somewhere Over The Rainbow. As we watched her performance I looked around the room and saw the tears of everyone around me. Before you ask, yes we are all gay. This led me to the question, why does this song seem to hit us to the core. It’s no secret that Judy Garland is something of a gay icon, but have you ever stopped to wonder why?

This movie was released during the Great Depression, what would seem like a world and a generation ago. The voices of that generation are slowly falling into history, however I have heard the stories first hand from my grandparents. Poverty was a reality, as was hunger, and going without was the norm. hope was a fading light on the horizon. So when they heard the words of Somewhere Over The Rainbow, it hit home, transporting them from their grim existence to a place where “dreams that you dreamed really do come true.” This was a brief escape, the same year this movie was released the united states joined a little battle called World War II. We call this generation the greatest generation, because of what they survived. They lived in a world that was not being kind to them, and yet they kept their spirit and persevered in spite of the adversity.  Many of the same things can be said about members of the LGBT community.

From a young age you know you are different. These differences are often painfully pointed out by your pears with relentless bullying. As you get older the clouds only grow darker. You try to fit in and fix yourself. Depression sets in, so many of us are not strong enough to take on the world. When you finally gain the strength to except yourself for who you are, you then have to fight against bullies in the form of discriminatory laws and religious groups. Never being able to fully fulfill your dreams like marriage, having a children and living the american dream as an equal. You hope and dream for world without judgement, where you are excepted and loved for who you are.

Judy Garland once said “I’ve always taken ‘The Wizard of Oz’ very seriously, you know. I believe in the idea of the rainbow. And I’ve spent my entire life trying to get over it.” She would never find her way over that rainbow in this life. This world became to much for her, Judy was found in her London apartment on June 22, 1969 after taking her own life. “Someday I’ll wish upon a star, Wake up where the clouds are far behind me, Where trouble melts like lemon drops, High above the chimney top,That’s where you’ll find me.” for so many of our brothers and sisters this is also their fate. They spend their entire life seeking the place where “dreams come true.”

As you may expect we are so much stronger when we join together. We strive to find our way to the other side of the rainbow, we have learned that it won’t be as easy as it was for the “blue birds”. Together we have made it through the aids epidemic, through stonewall, through assassinations and brutal beating. We always come back stronger then before. We have made it, so far, marching step by step down this yellow brick road. With so many little victories one by one we inch closer to a world where “the clouds are far behind” us. Someday we will look back and say. This was the next great generation, They overcame so much, and they never lost hope.” that day is still “a dream I dare to dream” but, I hope, not for long.

A Park Bench

I have often thought about God and I… If we were to sit on a park bench side by side, what would he say to me. What would I say to him… There was a time when I thought He would look at me with disappointment in his eyes and ask me why I had forsaken him. However I see now that this really doesn’t make sense. Why would he ask me that? I mean, he made me as I am… he didn’t make a mistake, there was no heavenly recall the day I was born. Why would he be sad? I was finally able to look myself in the mirror and know the person I was looking at. No, God wouldn’t ask me that. I think it would go a little differently now.

He would look at me with a smile in his eyes and say “see I told you it would be tough.” and we would laugh. I wouldn’t need to ask him “why?” me or “where were you?” I would know… I am who I am, who I will always be, It’s a fact. There was no mistake, no cosmic mixup, or curse. I was made to feel love and to love, the perfect creation. I would know that he gave me enough to strength to deal with everything that was in store for me.  I would know that even in my darkest of dark hours he was there next to me. He heard when that boy yelled “Faggot” across the street, He knows how it made me feel. He was there that night when I felt I wasn’t strong enough to go on, he gave me comfort and a feeling of peace.  He was there when I told my parents I was gay, not just for me but for them as well. He was there last week when I went to the court house. He felt my joy, his tears fell along side mine and so many others as we watched same sex couples married for the first time in the history of the state of Utah. He has a perfect knowledge of the long, difficult and bumpy road that had gotten us there. Remember it was his son’s and daughter’s that have been bullied, abused, beaten, some have had their journey’s cut short. He knows their pain, because he was there.

He would stand from the bench and help me to my feet, he would hug me and say “you are not done yet my son. I am here beside you, as I am now, always. I will watch over you and your family. Look to me for strength when you are tired and I will give it to you. Look to me for courage when you are afraid and I will give it to you. Look to me for peace, I will always give it to you. There is a world out there to change, millions of hearts to soften. There are many more laughs to be had and tears to be shed. You are exactly the man I wanted you to be. I love you and will see you at the end of your journey. Watch for me, I will be the proud father in front.”

yeah, I think it would go a little something like that. I know right now there are so many people saying that same sex couple being allowed to marry is an “affront to God.” But I know Him, and He is cool with it.

Finally!

A few words, a moment in time, which passed unnoticed by most, changed my world forever.

“The state’s current laws deny its gay and lesbian citizens their fundamental right to marry and, in so doing, demean the dignity of these same-sex couples for no rational reason,” wrote U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Shelby. “Accordingly, the court finds that these laws are unconstitutional.” SL Tribune Dec. 20, 2013

This ruling melted away the bars of opression and opened the gates of equality. Marriage licenses began to be issued to same sex couples in Salt Lake City. I couldn’t believe it, but it was true. The reality didn’t set in for a few hours, I just had this huge smile on my face. I called my mom, and few friends while numb to the real meaning of this day. I called my cousin Hannah who’s happiness matched my own, and my soul was so full it began to spill out in tears of joy. This day is EPIC… To finally feel the bright rays of equality! So much pain, loss, drops of blood and tears of sadness have been given. This heavy toll has been paid, and now we pass into the light. Emerging into a world where our families are recognized by law! The injustice has been realized and we have been granted protection under our country’s constitution!

We went down to the city building to take part in this historic day. We walked into the building and immediately felt the joy that permeated the air. The feelings of happiness, LOVE, and relief were tangable. We walked through the crowed of tear streaked faces. Marriage vows were being said all around us. Every time a couple was pronounced married under the law a cheer was raised. I stood in the hall stunned, from my vantage point I could see 3,4, no 5 marriages being performed. I put my head in my hands and wept. I can marry the man I love, my children can be raised in a home protected under law. I was able to get to the mayor of Salt Lake and tell him thank you for supporting us. We just watched marriage ceremony after marriage ceremony. By the time we left our cup was full to overflowing. This was truly a day that will go down in history. I am so glad I was there.

P.S . This came so unexpectedly Trent and I were taken by surprise. Now that it is legal we are discussing dates. There is a long road yet to travel, so we are going to have to play it by ear.

To my readers, friends and family that have supported Trent and I… Thank You!

Picture of me

 

A terrible secret, and my biggest fear.

I am telling this story, not because I want to, but because I feel responsible to tell it. This story narrates one of the darkest times in my life.

I was going to school at UVU in Orem Utah, and was feeling overwhelmed with life in general. I had met this guy on-line. He was so nice, sweet, respectful and kind. We would talk online almost every day. I was working nights at the time. He would call me to help pass the time, and we would talk for hours and hours. I was still in the “closet” and dealing with all the drama that came with it. He was the only person that I could be real with. The calls became more and more frequent. I would wake up in the morning everyday to a text. Something to make me smile. He was the light brightening my life. I don’t think he knew what he meant to me. He kept wanting to go out (in public) on a date, I wasn’t comfortable with that, being so new to everything I wanted to take things very slow. He would ask, and I would laugh and say “ask me again in a few days.” I was afraid someone would find me out. That someone would see us if we went out. He was headed out of town for the weekend to see his family, he said he wanted to go out before he left. I had a big weekend at work told him we would go when he got home. We set the date for the day he got back.  The weekend went slowly, we talked a few times. I woke up to corny and sweet texts everyday before work. Then it was finally the last night of him being away, and my work laden weekend.  He was supposed to drive home early so he could get some work done before out date. We talked late into the night about everything. We laughed and did a little crying too, his was the best shoulder to cry on… I told him he needed to go to bed. He finally gave in. As we ended our conversation he said I love you… I couldn’t say it back. I said I will see you in a few hours, drive safe. I went home and went to bed. I woke up late in the afternoon, I picked up my phone ready to read his text that he was safely home… There was nothing. I texted him “How was your drive home?” Then got up and went to the gym… I got done and there was no response, so I called, no answer. TIme went on, I started to worry. We were scheduled to have our date that night. Where was he? I called again, and texted a few more times. Nothing. I felt sick to my stomoch. Hours ticked by slowly, darkness fell and finally my phone went off… It wasn’t a number I recognized. It said “I don’t know who you are, but you must be very special to my brother… you should know he was in an accident. Fell asleep at the wheel on his way back to SLC. He is in surgery for a brain injury. Please pray for him.” I was standing in the middle of my apartment, my neese when weak, and tears started to flow. I couldn’t cope with this. I tried calling the number, no answer. I never let him tell anyone about me, and his family did not approve of his choices. They didn’t know who I was. Time went on, I got another message “Things aren’t going so well, pray.” That was it… I sat there on the floor hoping and praying… My roommate told me to call my parents, I was so numb that I did. I told my mom that a friend had gotten in an accident, and asked her if she could come and get me. No more news, she came and picked me up… I was in shock, I didn’t speak the whole way back home. Just cried.

My mom sat next to me on the couch and asked “Was he more then a friend?” I hadn’t told my family yet about me. I looked at her and said “mom, I think I loved him.” The weight of what I said settled on her shoulders. I saw in her face that she understood. We went to bed without much else being said. No more news about him came through. I got up and left the house, driving around trying to not think the worst. I came home to an empty house. There was a note on the floor just inside the front door. My mom wrote that she needed time to digest this news, and she couldn’t see me for awhile. (Just for the record, my parents have been very supportive of me. The best of families take time to adjust.)  I got a text “surgery is over. brain bleed, might not make it through the day.” That was it… the last message… I know he passed away. He would have contacted me if he could. I never did find out the truth though.

This affected me so badly.  I blamed myself. I kept him up late, he was coming home to see me. The worst part was there was no closure. Just a line of unanswered questions. I learned so much, I learned to never hide again. The cost is just too high. Be honest with others. Don’t be afraid. I also am not afraid to say “I love you.” I make a point of it… Because you never know if you will have that chance to say it again.

Time passes and life goes on. I met Trent, the most wonderful, happiest person I know. We fell in love. We have made a wonderful family together. I tell him every day that I love him, I have never loved anyone sooo much in my life. I worry about him too, I worry about loosing him. I look at him every morning, and think to myself “I am so lucky to have another day with him.” I fear that one day he will be taken away from me… that I might loose him. I worry that I won’t be able to see him if something were to happen. I worry that because we are not married, and I technically have to right or say, that I will be shut out. Left again with no closure. These are the things I lay awake at night thinking.

I know these worries are “silly” I know Trent’s family very well and love them very much. However, this was the damage that was done. This is the refining fire that I had to pass through, I have come out stronger, braver, and yes a little damaged.

I feel it is time to put this nightmare to bed. I am ready to legally marry the man I love. To have that piece of mind that comes with that little piece of paper. This license assurance that yes, you are a family.  If something were to ever happen to me or to him, I want to know that we will be side by side. We know married couples that are celebrating their anniversaries that have been together less time then Trent and I. When is it going to be our turn, when will we qualify to bind ourselves together in marriage? The call has been made, EQUALITY, please answer that call.

and if you ever doubt where you stand on the matter, just put yourself in my shoes…

Seeing The Light

I have a simple and clear desire, it’s a desire shared by millions, and I would bet it is a desire also shared by you. My desire is to have a family. This is fundamental to human existence. I have found the man I love, we have been together for 5 years… we have built a home together. I have had to overcome significant personal turmoil to get here, and now that I am here I find the way blocked. This “stonewall” is built of the prejudice and ignorance of others. I am so proud of New Jersey and what they have overcome to legalize equal marriage rights. Governor Chris Christy was trying to build a case against the new law, saying that the people of New Jersey needed to vote on the rights of gay people to marry. This statement sums up what is wrong with the oposistion. This is not an issue to be voted on by others. I am an American, I pay my taxes, I am an upstanding member of society. Why should my rights be put to vote when my neighbors rights (who pays the same amount of taxes as I)  are inalienable. Why is there a double standard? Governor Christy has discovered he does not have a leg to stand on and admitted defeat.  Our attention is now turned to Hawaii, they are voting on overturning a law thats soul purpose is to outlawing gay marriage. For this to happen they need to have a majority of at least 26 and we are at 27 now. The LDS church has also thrown its had into the ring, with a letter to all the Hawaii ward Bishops to be read over the pulpit encouraging members to stand up for “traditional marriage” and to get involved. This letter dashed any thought of the church softening its destructive stance towards the LGBT community. The measure will pass and gay marriage will be had in Hawaii by the end of next month. This wall is slowly breaking down and the light has begun to show through… and wouldn’t you know it, its a rainbow.

A Mothers Love

My mom has always said to me that she could hug anyone who was gay, she could accept and love them, but she could never walk a parade to support gay rights. Honestly I am just glad she accepted me and that she loves my partner. I know she will always love my family. This is more then many in my community could ever hope for. My mom has come so far in this journey with me. I have to say, I was a little surprised when she said she would be attending the pride parade with us this year. I was a little nervous about what she might see or what she might think. The morning came and we were running a little late, she called me and said that she had saved me a place and to hurry and get there. As we arrived at the place where she was I saw an interesting sight. My mom and sister (who is preparing to serve a full time mission for the LDS church) sitting in a camp chair, dressed in church clothes, and surrounded by a sea of rainbow flags held by gays and lesbians. I ran up to see a big smile on my moms face, she was having a great time. The feeling of the celebration was electric. The events of the last year and the court decision looming over us had amped up the energy and the numbers of the crowed. We watched as the bright colors went by, cheered for different groups and laughed at others. Then a special group passed… It was the Mormons Building Bridges Group. My mom stood from her chair, head held high, and walked out to join the group. As she walked she turned and blew me a kiss and waved goodbye, I could see in her eyes what she couldn’t say “This one is for you son.” She turned back and marched on. I was not expecting the emotions of that moment… I cheered her on with a smile and the tears started to come, my sister came up gave me a hug and we wept together. Trent also couldn’t believe what she had done, and tears streaked his face as he joined the hug. That moment was so powerful and special to me. I could have never predicted that she would do that, and I could never have predicted the power of such an action. That step into the crowed was the first step in a journey for her. She represented the mother of so many that were in attendance that day, mothers that would never do what she did. People in the crowed ran up and hugged her and thanked her for marching.  After finishing the route with her group, she came back changed forever, I was also changed. I hugged her and said said “Thank you” it was the only thing I could say. A few moments later My sister and I stood side by side, with Trent and his niece (who is also preparing for a full time LDS mission) while holding the enormous rainbow flag that finished the parade. I felt the love of my family so strongly that day, I just want to thank them for standing with me. Family – I LOVE YOU 🙂

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Andy

A single point of view can only hold so much information. In seventh grade my best friend was Andy. I only had one class with him, gym. I would go up to Andy everyday and say hi. My class mates would ask me why I talked to him. You see Andy was in a wheel chair, he couldn’t really form words or somedays he wasn’t even aware I was there. They thought he was scary and different. They couldn’t have understood what Andy meant to me.

It was back in about the forth grade when Andy and his family moved in down the street. When I met Andy he was a strange kid from tennessee. We would ride bikes, get lost in the gully across the street for hours. He was just like me. He would tell me about how much he loved his grandma, he would complain when his mom told him to clean his room, and he loved roller blading. The only thing about Andy that made him any different was the fact that he had to get a blood transfusion once a month so he could receive the platelets his body needed. One of these transfusion he received, when we were in sixth grade, contained an infection his body had a heard time fighting off. This infection made his own body attack his brain. It didn’t really seem to affect him at first, but as the months went buy I began to notice changes in him. He became irritable easier, and he wasn’t as fast as he once was on his bike. We would walk to the bus everyday, and I noticed he wasn’t as steady on his feet. One day we were getting on the bus when Andy fell… He was bleeding and his mom had come and take him home. Andy was gone for awhile after that. I would visit him at his house, each day he lost his ability to communicate a little more, one day he lost his ability to walk… This was the Andy that my classmates knew, but I knew the real him. He was still there I could see it in his eyes, and in his smile. Our friendship grew stronger as his body grew weaker. There came a time when andy couldn’t come to school anymore. A few months had gone by, I was away at summer camp when I got this sick feeling and knew I needed to go home. My leaders took me home and I was met at the door by my mom. She said Andy has slipped into a coma and it’s time to say goodbye. We went over and I sat next to him, I told him that I would miss him… He was my best friend. I told him he would be able to run again, and ride bike. My heart was full as I said it was okay for him to go… I would miss him, and goodbye. I stood and walked out of the room knowing that was the last time I would see him. Andy slipped away that night in a house full of those who loved him most.

You will never really know the full measure of a stranger.

Called to Serve

I could here my companion sleeping as I knelt in prayer. It was the night before the last day of my LDS mission. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I prayed more fervently then ever I had. I had given the Lord my all for the last two years of my life. I had pressed forward down streets of unwelcoming doors, biked during hot muggy days miles and miles. I had bent my head in prayer with thousands of people, spreading the gospel of Christ in every corner of Louisiana. My heart was bursting with love for the people I had met and worked with, they had become my friends. We had worked through hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Given help whenever and where ever I could. I had learned who I was and what I was capable of.  Now it was all coming to an end. I just hoped that it was enough. I pleaded with the Lord for hours that night. I prayed that he would please, please take this from me. I wanted to do what he wanted me to do, go home, find a wife, have a family. I knew however if this burden had not passed from me that I never would. The next few days passed in a blur. I had come home, hugged my mom and dad.  The time came for my release from my calling as a missionary. I stood Starring at myself in the mirror of the bathroom (stealing a few moments before the unavoidable release) I studied my black badge with my name written in white. I had never worried about me being gay because I knew one day I would wear that badge, I knew I must stay worthy of it. Now my mission was complete, it was time to remove the badge and pick up my life. Someone knocked on the door to tell me it was time. We walked into the office of the stake president. He asked if I had any regrets, I replied no. As we spoke I prayed fervently that the cross I had beard would be taken from me. The president stood to release me and my heart began to race. He placed his hands on my head and released me from the office of Elder and from my calling as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints. I thought my shoulder would break as surely as my heart did when I felt the burden settle on my shoulders. It was back… I hadn’t done well enough…I started to cry, my heart was so heavy and defeated. I cried because it was over, I cried because I was done, but mainly I cried because I was gay… I was going to have to face a battle I didn’t think I could fight.

Here I am almost six years later. I sit here looking at that badge of black, a warrior… I have fought so many battles, some were lost and some were won. I am still that man I once was but I am also so much more now. I have realized that burden, that cross which I had to bear, was actually the best gift my father could have given me. He has blessed me with freedom, with understanding, and with a family I wouldn’t trade for the world. When I had thought that my mission was over, I was wrong. The truth is my mission was just beginning. My mission now is to fight for equality, not just in marriage but in life. My mission is to help those who are walking the trail that I am so familiar with, to give strength and help as I know God would want me too. To let them know that they are not alone, that they are loved and that one day, in the not too distant future, it will get better. There are days when I get tired, when I just want to give up, but I place my trust in God and move forward. The future I see is bright, and getting closer. I live, walk, and trust in this hope.

Waking the Giant

I was sent an email from a close friend of mine today that made me think. She told me about her dad he called her and was terribly offended because of a picture she posted on Facebook. The picture was in support of equal rights in marriage. She informed her dad that she would not be taking it down and she did not appreciate his reaction. He asked her why she was taking such a stance on something that does not affect her, she is not gay, her kids aren’t either, so why? She replied that this does affect her family. This matter will shape the future of her children, it will teach them not to judge and to always treat others with respect. By taking this stand she as put into motion a change in her family. From her heart of gold who learned to except me and my family, has sprouted a massive movement in her own family. I wanted to say thank you to her. Thank you for your loving unjudgemental friendship.

As you know this is a very important week for the Equality movement. The supreme court will be hearing cases that will directly influence the future of my family and society in general. Trent and I believe that when we tell our children about this years from now that we need to be able to tell what part we played. We decided to a attend a protest at the capital. We got there and joined hundreds of other people, mostly dressed in red. We gathered in the basement of the capitol building, as our numbers swelled so did our emotions. Tears were on many faces. The focus of this protest was to peacefully make our presents known at another protest being held by the Osmond Family. As we moved as one body up those stairs surrounding the other protest, we moved in silence not needing to say a word as the meaning our gathering became clear. We stood as silent sentinels around the pocket of traditional supporters. As there program began they said the pledge of allegiance, the crowed was in shock as we joined our voices with theirs. As we closed with the word “Liberty and Justice for all” the feeling of injustice filled the room. Yes we are citizens of this great country too… Our rights were included in the battle for freedom, our ancestors blood was shed for us too. Our hands will cover our hearts as the Star Spangled Banner plays. So my question is why? Why would the Constitution of this great country not apply to us? Why are these rights only applicable to those who are straight? We stayed and respectfully listen to the unfounded and cruel words of these people. We sat and listened to them say we were not equal, that our lives are a perversion of love and by achieving equality we would destroy the family. We listened to them say that they had to protect the rights of their children. We waited and gave them their say, the closing prayer was offered. Then the chant began “Marriage Equality Now!” again and again, growing louder and louder, our voices joined as one. One who has been tread on for so long, one who is finally ready to take up his flag and fight. We came from all walks of life, gay, lesbian, straight, trans, bi, poor, rich, black, white and every other color of the rainbow. It was beautiful.  We have been united, we will continue to speak as one. When the ruling of the supreme court comes through, we will shed tears together as one. We will stand as one and we will continue on until every one of us has equality! I want this for my neighbor, for my family, for my husband, for my children and for me. Today is a day that will rain down in history, the question is… Where you on the right side of it?