Friday, August 28, 2009

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Each news story about Utah's new governor, Gary Herbert, makes me wince a little more. Former Gov. Huntsman, provided Utah's gay community with some hope for progress in equality; however, that hope has been snuffed out with the announcement that Herbert does not believe protected classes should exist because:

"We don't have to have a rule for everybody to do the right thing. We ought to do the right thing because it's the right thing to do."

As far as existing protected classes go (gender, race, disability, etc.) this logic just doesn't hold up. If people had just done the right thing and treated people fairly, we would not have needed a civil rights movement. Did those who performed lynchings think they were doing the right thing? The truth of the matter is that people do not agree on what the right thing is. The purpose of the law is to define these grey areas in order to protect the innocent. Herbert poses the following question in defense of this point:

"Where do you stop? That's the problem going down that slippery road. Pretty soon we're going to have a special law for blue-eyed blondes."

Okay, so written protections of gays will lead to written protections of Aryans? (Wait, isn't that what Hitler did…. Ooh, that's pretty shifty even if it wasn't intentional, Mr. Herbert—tying gay rights to white supremacy…). Law is dictated not only by moral right, but also by necessity. Let's face it: people who don't fit into Utah's conventional scheme of gender attraction or identity have been discriminated against in the workplace and that should be the chief motivation for implementing such a law. Laws aren't based on how people should act, but what they actually do.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The “Not Gay” Man

"There are three types of men in Utah: the gays, the straights, and the 'not gays.' "—my best friend, Cole.

In LDS culture, many GMBs go through life being defended. When these boys are teased, their friends and family often come to their aid and say, "He's not gay."

That said, in 90% of cases, though, the "not gay" boy turns out to be gay (not an actual statistic to clarify). There may be something to the perception that young people have, or the tendency that we have as human beings to point out each others' "weaknesses." Whatever the case, family, friends, and the boys themselves feel the necessity to defend themselves against such accusations.

One example is my best friend Cole. Throughout high school, bullies targeted him for his artistic abilities and his mannerisms. All of his friends, myself included, made an effort to support him by telling his tormentors and witnesses that he was "not gay." I, myself, received similar (perhaps more tactful) accusations on my mission based upon the way I crossed my legs from dear friends.

Roughly one month after I came out to Cole, he confirmed the suspicions of not only those bullies (a number of whom came out themselves) but also many of the friends who defended him. Reactions, as in any case, were mixed. He felt a slight sense of resentment from a few of his friends, but most were happy with his announcement.

The major lesson to be learned is that although we truly never know the complete story of anyone's life, people's perceptions that counter the person's self-perception can never be completely discounted. In other words, we must be sensitive not only to the ways that a person perceives him/herself, but also to the way he/she does not (or perhaps does not yet) him/herself.

What am I getting at?

Last night, I watched the movie Julie and Julia with my friends for my friend Annie's birthday. It's a movie I highly recommend. One that touches on how the simple things in life such as cooking or the love of another person (simplicity there is debatable, I know) can bring joy to one's life.

In the film, Amy Adams and Meryl Streep's characters' are both brought purpose and meaning as they cooked; however, I feel that the greater art in these life lessons—what really gave them focus and joy was sharing their joys and struggles through the written word. As someone who studies the written word, I may be biased, but it is the most purposeful way for two people to connect as the writing process requires editing, consideration of one's audience, and construction of voice.

In the movie, Julie starts a blog to bring meaning to her life, setting the goal of cooking all of the recipes in Julia's cookbook. As she sets out on her journey to complete every recipe in Julia Child's cookbook, she explains the goal to her readers.

All of that led me to wonder if I'd provided any meaning to those of you who stumble upon this blog. I struggle sometimes with being direct, so I'll come right out and say just what I hope to accomplish through my writing. This blog (about the experiences of a GMB one year after the actual events generally) was created in order to:

  • Reflect on these events and how I've changed/grown.
  • Help me understand the GMB culture I live within.
  • Help others who are in a similar situation to my own.

In the short time that I've been writing, I've received a few laughs and a few thank yous. That is as satisfying and meaningful as the writing itself.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Sharpening That Utah Gaydar

A couple of months after one of my best girl friends returned from her mission, my best friend decided that it was time we broke the news to her. It was difficult for all of us. Jacqueline, the friend in question, was shocked and upset by the prospect of her two best male friends were gay. Both of us had served missions. Both of us had been ideal friends in high school and afterwards, yet such a revelation inevitably resulted in a sense of betrayal.

As Jacqueline came to terms with the idea of her two best guys being gay (one doesn't necessarily adjust to the fag hag mantle at the drop of a hat), she needed time space and the help of a few friends who had already gone through such a transition. Eventually, she came around and we found ourselves, weeks later with another friend from Provo, at PF Chang's sitting down to a twenty-something's idea of a fancy dinner.

Within a few minutes, the conversation turned to the gay life in Utah. "Utah must have the worst dating scene there is. How do you even find somebody?" Cole, the other gay bff, pointed out one of the waiters and within a few minutes the waiter returned a flirting glance. Shocked, Jacqueline gasped unintentionally and once the waiter was out of sight exclaimed, "How did you do that?!"

We explained that it's a science that comes with practice and is by no means perfect. Within ten minutes we had a list:

  1. Is the facial hair nicely trimmed?
  2. Does the hair stick up in any way (ie. a faux hawk)?
  3. Are the shoes pointy or at least Italian-looking?
  4. Does he have cologne in his car? Hair products?
  5. Is his but tucked as he walks?
  6. Are his clothes exceptionally well coordinated? (ie. Does his underwear match the rest of his outfit?)
  7. V-necks?
  8. Is there a gym membership on his key chain? Or a rewards card to any of the following: a high-end clothing store, a shoe store, a book store?

Now let's be honest. The aforementioned characteristics are coveted in a straight man which is why it seemed a little piece of Jaqueline died each time we added a point to this list. As the conversation came to an end, she exclaimed "I'm going to end up marrying Bronson!" (one of our more frumpy and awkward high school friends).

To her credit, we did make it seem as if all of the attractive single men in Utah are gay (or gay and don't know it), but we offered her a consoling piece of advice: marry a boy with sisters. "If there's any hope of a straight boy being somewhat concerned about his appearance," Cole advised, "he's probably learned it from his sisters."

Coming Out to Myself, Part Three

Having spent two years of my life telling people to answer the feelings they found in their heart and to heed to the answers of prayers, I only had one choice: I flirted back. I looked into his blue eyes, admired his physical features and intelligence, and knew why I had been unhappy: I hadn't let myself feel. My heart gyrated the rest of the night. Not out of worry or shame, but out of hope and satisfaction for the bit of my life which now felt resolved.

After dinner, we called it a night and said our goodbyes and our "nice to meet yous" as we were accustomed to doing. On the drive home that night, my heart continued to sputter with questions. We reminisced a little and discussed the night. I asked a few pointed questions testing the water. "What do you think of Grey?", "Do you think he's gay?", etc. Everyone had picked up on his flirting, but having known me for six years my sexuality didn't seem to be in question. In fact, they felt comfortable enough to tease me about the flirting and our future together only leading to stronger palpitations.

As soon as I'd dropped off the last of the friends who had gone with me, I immediately pulled out my phone and texted my best friend thanking him for inviting us and introducing me to Grey and his other friends. He immediately replied back (more aware of what had taken place that I'd anticipated), "He's a good one. Very well-informed." And a bit later, "Grey asked for your cell number. I sent it to him. Hopefully you won't mind?" Naturally, I didn't and things turned out for the better.

Coming Out to Myself, Part Two

Looking back, nothing really stuck out about that day. I'd made plans weeks in advance to see Cole—my best friend—in concert. I'd decided to carpool with some friends to economize the gas and enjoy one another's company. As usual, work, school, and old times dominated the conversation. "Do you remember those Hostess cupcake wars we used to have in high school?", "Why did you and Brenda never get along?", "I remember the look on your face when you first saw the opening credits to Sweeney Todd," etc.

When we arrived for the concert, it amazed me as it always has how we were able to arrive on time, sit down, and shut up long enough to hear our friend perform. After more than six years of friendship, all of that had become routine. Cole was the musician and artist, I was the writer and Scholar, Jacqueline was the spiritual rock. After the performance, it was only natural for all of us to gather for a nice dinner.

That night at Village Inn, however, we were joined for the first time by Cole's other group of friends—his university friends with whom he studied and discussed music on a daily basis. There was the cellist, the soprano, the euphonium player, and the baritone—Grey. Upon sitting down next to Cole, I introduced myself to these new friends, taking note that the friends I'd come with were all at the other end of the table and that I was surrounded Grey and the other musicians. Moments later, I found myself enveloped in a conversation with Grey about music and art that was at times over my head. That said, I offered what I could to the conversation, bringing up the bits of literature and philosophy that seemed most applicable: Shakespeare's range and wordplay, Virginia Woolf's innovations in voice and style.

Suddenly, I realized something was off. Grey was flirting with me… and I liked it. Things like this weren't supposed to happen. But I felt whole for some reason—counter to everything I'd been taught in my life. In a split second I was left to make a decision: do I accept this as the answer to the problems I've been having or accept this feeling as an answer.

End Part Two.

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