Sunday, October 31, 2010

Brace Yourselves, I'm Pissed.

Not that there are comments on my blog anyway (3 loyal followers, that might mean I'm questioning your existence), but brace yourselves for a personal entry, potentially filled with frustration and mirth.

I get frustrated with school. I get frustrated with people. Hell, I get ridiculously frustrated with the media, politics and media politics. All those things aside, I find that my levels of frustration are well within the normal bounds of average humanity. The one exclusion: The LDS Church.

Currently, I'm so frustrated, preoccupied and brain-dead, that I'm sitting behind my laptop, blogging to a seemingly empty Internet (excluding porn, since that makes up like 90% of the internet) as I watch "Child's Play" for the first time in my life. Despite the questionable acting, generic script and notably outdated effects, I'll admit that I was honestly jumpy and suspended until Chucky fully came to life on camera. Then it became a comedy. God, how I long for the 80s sometimes.

Anyway, I've been reading a bit about Brigham Young, and I have to say he was never a man of whom I was too horribly fond. After reading a sermon from his journal of discourses, I like him even less. In what I believe to be a therapeutic statement, I may even go as far as to call him an asshole.

Also, how does a 3lb. doll have the weight, strength and force to strangle a full grown man with a pair of heavy-duty insulated cables? And where did Chucky pick up that butcher knife? The cop doesn't seem stupid enough to just keep one in his back seat...

But back to my point: I go to read things like that (seriously, get acquainted with Brigham Young's wives and you'll wonder how he got a University named after him) to remind myself why I left the church. The church leaders have a consistent track record for only one thing of which I am aware: planting preconceptions of why people leave the church. One of the most common supposed reasons is rebellion. We leave because being Mormon is too hard. In a way, that's true, but it's not that I got lazy or just wanted to rebel (and yes, my sister genuinely thought for a while that I left just to spite our parents. It's been oodles of fun). I left because I was lied to, because I was tired of ignoring my common sense, tired of defending something that gave me nothing but disappointment and rejection in return. It gets exhausting and lying to yourself about existential things that affect the very fabric of your existence is indeed hard.

Unfortunately, when your entire family is Mormon, LDS inc. is the gift that keeps on-a-givin'. I want to live with my partner, but "it will break [my mother's] heart," because it's against church values. We're already living together anyway, just not formally. But fine; I want to elope because I'm plenty ready to be married to my partner and I want to live with him. BUT, "it will break [my mother's] heart." The place I pay rent for is both uncomfortable and unwelcoming. My roommate informed me that having a roommate is beneath her. But I have to stay in this situation because of the arbitrary values of a bunch of old white men in suites. My parents want me to have an actual wedding with actual people in an actual wedding dress.

I just want to fucking get married. And frankly, I don't want my family there. Whenever we talk about it, there's the comment "Of course we want you to get married in the temple but we're still happy for you. We still want to share that with you." In other words, "Congratulations on your honorable mention." I honestly don't want a wedding. I'm weird, I know, but I've NEVER wanted a big wedding. I've always wanted the minimum, because for me, it's about being married, not getting married.
I'm very private about my relationships, especially intimacy. The level of emotional intimacy I need to trust some one enough to commit to them for the rest of my life is not something I want to make a spectacle out of. It's my private business and I'll share it with my partner, thank you very much. That's just my style. I watched my extended family bitch about my cousin's wedding. Yes, his wife is a little high maintenance, but the elitist, "this is second-rate" attitude was palpable. I don't want any of that "It's not in the temple but it's still nice" bullshit ruining the happiest day of my life. It's a wonderful, damnit, and that's it. No buts about it.

So to summarize, my options that don't "break my [mother's] heart" are: 1. continue paying overpriced rent for a shack where I'm not welcome in order to satisfy the values of a bunch of men who don't know me or deserve my respect, 2. uh... well, I guess there's just the one. Nothing about this is fair.

Oh, did I mention the quote from my dad: "We'd rather you elope to city hall with a JoP and than move in together."
...But if I elope they'll be heartbroken. Because they'll miss my honorable mention wedding.

The old biggots in white suits are still dictating my happiness. Awesome.

Monday, October 4, 2010

A (hopefully) Thoughtful Response to Boyd K. Packer

In the words of Elie Wiesel,

"I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human
beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality
helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never
the tormented."

So, I will not be silent. You are probably wondering what all the ruckus is about (or probably not). Well, here's a video to get you started. Full talk here, for those of you worried about context.

Frankly, putting it into context doesn't help anything for me. President Packer's words are still as biting and hurtful in the full talk as they are in the segment. I am frustrated and alarmed that he can preach such ignorance from the pulpit, a pulpit with literally millions of listeners. Four things stood out most (hopefully my contempt is minimized for the sake of sound argument).

1. You're not born with your gayness
What he said: "Some suppose that they were pre-set and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn tendencies toward the impure and the unnatural. Not so. Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone?"
Why it hurts: If not God, who do we credit for bringing homosexuality into the world? This is truly a step backwards because it reinforces the old-school idea that it is the fault of the individual or his/her parents. Some one did something horribly wrong that resulted in this person being gay. God didn't do it, you did it to yourself. The problem is that we don't know what we did or when we did it.
Why it is wrong: It is the norm for same-sex attraction to emerge around the onset of puberty, when everyone else is starting to feel opposite-sex attractions. What could a child (A CHILD!) have done to be labeled "impure and unnatural," and punished with loneliness for the rest of his/her natural life? This kind of logic tells us that we are inherently flawed but we cannot understand why. It is the equivalent of putting a 6-year-old in time-out for 24/7 and not giving him any idea why he got there. All he knows is that he is a bad boy.
And, of course, the scientific evidence that sexual orientation is largely genetic is ever-mounting. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Holy Grail: a lecture from a BYU professor of biology on the biological evidence for homosexuality.

2. Your gayness can be cured
What he said: "You can if you will, break the habits and conquer the addiction and come away from that which is not worthy of any member of the church...'Wo unto them who call evil good and good evil...'"
Why it hurts: Imagine a person who has spent his entire life as a devout mormon. He's struggled since childhood with an attraction to males, but he never acted on it. He breaks down and tells his family when he is 19. They send him to repairative therapy, telling him he can be "fixed." What is wrong with him? He is a gentle, compassionate person who is trying to be honest with his family and himself. Hearing from your family and from the church leaders you trust that you, a well-adjusted, decent human being who strives every day to be Christ-like, need to be repaired.
Why it is wrong: Repairative therapy does not work. Here are the APA's definitions and explanations on their website. Here's a report from their task force. This isn't even the anecdotal evidence that people seem to love so much. I can point you to at least 3 people (just off the top of my head) who have been through repairative therapy. Not only are they still full of gayness, but they concluded "therapy" emotionally and psychologically beaten and scarred. Not everyone in the LGBT community has the "luxury" of being bisexual. At least I have some hope of pleasing these old white men in suits because I can marry a member of the opposite sex and be perfectly happy. That's the difference though, I can be happy. I get to choose my partner because I love him, not because I have to. The only paths LGT individuals have that are "Packer-friendly" are 1) to suppress their sexual orientation and fake a happy marriage to some one they are not attracted to or 2) spend their life celibate. The first is a clear violation of the church's principles of honesty and integrity, while the second is a violation of the laws of nature. Humans are intensely social animals and to spend life without sex, one of our most intensely social experiences is unhealthy. Even more unhealthy is to spend our lives alone. We need to be cuddled, to hold hands. In developing children, touch causes the brain to release the adrenocorticotropic hormone, needed for growth of brain and body. Without it we whither away. Do not ask the most social beings on earth to spend their entire lives alone. A just God would not ask that of only some of his children, nor would a compassionate God ask it of any.

3. Voting for your gayness is stupid and futile
What he said: "[T]here are those today who not only tolerate but advocate voting to change laws that would legalize immorality. As if a vote could somehow alter the designs of God's laws of nature. A law against nature would be impossible to enforce. For instance, what good would the law against--vote against the law of gravity do?"
Why it hurts: First off, do I even need to address how ludicrous and insultingly unworkable his comparison to voting against gravity really is? Because I will if I need to. Packer is saying that same-sex marriage is completely immoral. Let me rephrase that: two people who love each other, committing to be love and support each other for the rest of their lives, through good times and bad, is immoral. Two people finding love, comfort, acceptance and understanding in one another amidst a title wave of intolerance is immoral.
Why it is wrong: He is passing judgement. Judgement upon something he does not understand. He is also reiterating the age-old argument that homosexuality is unnatural and against the laws of nature. Please refer to the above "Holy Grail" link for my response to that. There is also the notion that such a "law against nature would be impossible to enforce." In his words, "not so." If it's legal for gay people to get married, gay people are going to get married, the world will keep spinning and the Mets will still suck. It's that simple.
4. If your gayness wins, we all lose
What he said: "History demonstrates over and over again that moral standards cannot be changed by battle and cannot be changed by ballot. To legalize that which is basically wrong or evil will not prevent the pain and penalties that will follow as sure as night follows day."
Why it hurts: I'll admit, this one is more ludicrous than than its predecessor, so much so that it is hardly as painful as a pinch on the arm from a 2-year-old.
Why it is wrong: Conversely, this section has me stumped for where to begin. First off, history is full of civilizations that thought they were doing what was ok. There was a lot of conquering going on and history is written by the victors. That's really all there is to it. If we conquer our enemies, odds are that we're going to brag about how "righteous" we were and how "wicked" they were. But the truth is, history as we know it can be pretty biased and the Founding Fathers were actually dicks sometimes. Slightly visceral reaction, right? Well, there might be the same reaction if I say the Israelites conquered Canaan and justified their war with religion. It's ok, it's the same with Islam and Catholicism. My point is, "History demonstrates" is a highly inadequate platform for an argument. We can certainly learn from events in history, but the only thing history seems to really "demonstrate" is that people try to justify everything with religion.
I would also like to add a mention of the Church's old stance against blacks. Brigham Young said: 1) "We knew that the children of Ham (African Americans) were to be the "servant of servants," and no power under heaven could hinder it, so long as the Lord would permit them to welter under the curse and those were known to be our religious views concerning them" (JoD, vol. 2, p. 172).
2) "Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty under the law of God is death on the spot. This will always be so" (JoD, vol. 10, p. 110)

Elder Packer, a brave president issued the Emmancipation Proclaimation and freed the slaves, and after a long and courageous struggle, Black Americans have achieved the equality they deserved all along. Though you have before, I dare you to support Young's statement now. I dare you.

This law of which he speaks can be changed by a ballot and someday it will. I have faith (yes, faith!) in the rising generation of Americans. I cling to hope that they will outgrow the trivial and intolerant lessons of their predecessors, just as those predecessors came forward from the racism and intolerance of their own parents and grandparents. Intellectualism is my religion and more of my peers are seeking it. The time for these old bigoted lessons in sheep's clothing is limited.

I believe in progress. I believe in people.