22 August 2008


i've been keeping late hours the last couple of weeks, thanks to the olympics and being on vacation with my family. last night my sister J and i spent our evening playing with her girls and watching the olympics (or at least i was ogling the beautiful men on the U.S. track team). which meant bedtime wasn't until well after midnight.

i climbed into bed about one in the morning but found myself tossing and turning a bit. so i pulled out my computer to read a few of the blog posts i'd not had a chance to read (due to excursions to the park to have a picnic and ride the horsies [i.e., carousel], playing princess dress up, swinging small girls by their ankles, etc.). maybe it was a mistake to try to pass a bit of time that way, because it got my mind whirring. again.

all day yesterday, my frustrations and tension and pain over the church's position on california's proposition 8 (which would amend the state constitution to prohibit any marriage but that between a man and a woman) bubbled under the surface. let me be perfectly clear: i find this proposition repugnant in every way. i believe it originates in bigotry. i believe it attempts to deny citizens of the state liberties that the government should protect and preserve, rather than remove. there is no question in my mind that every citizen should have the opportunity to enter into a civil marriage contract with another consenting adult and to therefore receive the protections and privileges governments grant to married couples.

the day i heard the news that the california state supreme court had overturned prop. 22 (passed nearly ten years ago) and therefore declared marriage legal for all california adults regardless of sexual orientation, i celebrated. and the day i learned the church planned to join in the effort to pass prop. 8, i mourned. on the day (coincidentally--coughcough--gay pride day) the letter from church headquarters regarding prop. 8 was read in church, i went to church wearing a rainbow ribbon and with a freshly buzzed head--two visible attempts to declare my disagreement with the church's actions without being too confrontational.

since then, i've continued to display my rainbow ribbon when i go to church. and i'll keep my hair buzzed through the november election. but it's not enough. last fast sunday, in the midst of incredible spiritual turmoil at least in part caused by this issue, i bore my testimony about what i believe is the true miracle of christ's atonement--that it teaches us to look past people's problems to recognize their beauty; to step outside of ourselves and extend love and compassion and understanding to all people, regardless of their gender or their race or their religion. for me the gospel of christ is a gospel of love and acceptance—one that requires that we stretch ourselves to understand how and why people think differently than we do. for me, the gospel of Christ is not one of imposing our own beliefs on others or of believing our job is to make everyone else like ourselves. but while i think i made that point fairly clearly, i did not specifically mention prop. 8 and gay marriage, in spite of a powerful desire to do so.

then last week a member of my ward called to confirm i'd received an email about the "prop. 8 walk." i hadn't, but rather than mentioning that, i immediately spoke up to explain my position. the conversation went something like this:

me: i think i should clarify that i will not only vote no on prop. 8, but i will also do everything i can to make sure it does not pass. and i will certainly not do anything that could be seen as support.

him: so you're going against the brethren on this. {definitely a statement, not a question.}

me: no, i’m going with my conscience on this.

him: but you’re going against the brethren.

me: no, i’m going with my conscience, which is what i believe god expects of us.

him: hey, i don’t want to argue with you—i’m just kidding around. {trust me, there was no hint of humor in any of this exchange.}

and that’s where the conversation ended. when this man’s committee chairperson—an old friend of mine—called a few days later to ensure that the first caller hadn’t said anything inappropriate, i explained what he had said. my friend apologized. i asked him for clarification on what the “prop. 8 walk” was and clarified my own belief on the issue. because i’ve decided that i can certainly speak up in one-on-one conversations with other church members, even if i haven’t quite figured out how to speak up in institutional church settings.

i still feel that what i've done is not enough. and last night that was causing me a great deal of angst. so much that in spite of being very tired, i could not sleep. so when i was still tossing and turning after three in the morning, i called j(wh) and we talked through some of what i was feeling. not only about prop. 8, but about the church more generally. i won't go into that here. i'm not sure it's something i want to put out into the ether. we'll see. but it was good to talk to him, to name my fears to someone else and receive in return unqualified love and concern.

and best of all, when we were about done talking he read me a bedtime story and encouraged me to hope for something that seems nearly impossible--because maybe, just maybe, the horse will sing. another reason i love my j(wh).

03 August 2008


sometimes all i want is for life to be simple. very simple. if you know how to find simplicity, do share.

01 August 2008


nearly ten years ago i graduated from BYU and moved to virginia to get a masters degree at UVA. i remember sitting in the welcome meeting for new graduate students and feeling a bit of culture shock. the most memorable catalyst for that culture shock was the DGS (director of graduate studies), a very hip man who taught african american studies and late 20th century pop culture--a man with long hair (a definite no-no at the Y) and colorful language (another no-no). i think he had a goatee, too. i wonder if he had a beard card signed by his medical provider...

that first semester at UVA was full of all kinds of new experiences. my first party, by which is meant a lot of people getting together to drink and talk with loud music playing in the background. my first wine & cheese gathering. my first outing to a bar for drinks. my first attempts at explaining mormon peculiarities to drunk people. my first whiff of pot. my first taste of thai food, vegetarian food, and cooked spinach. my first cocktail party (at which i was dubbed the 'mormon alice cooper' for reasons that remain entirely unclear to me).

i embraced every new experience that presented itself so long as it didn't require that i do something that contradicted my own standards. i made a very conscious choice that i would welcome any advance of friendship. for the first time in my life i lived far away from family (only two hours from my oldest brother, but without a car that was a fairly insurmountable distance). i was starting a new educational venture. and i knew that if i didn't build a supportive network for myself in charlottesville i would be miserable.

i didn't end up miserable. i ended up so happy that i wanted to never leave. i made wonderful friends at church. and i made wonderful friends at school. some of my friends from virginia remain among my dearest friends. i wouldn't trade the experiences we shared for anything.

once in a while, when i've described my experiences in charlottesville to other mormons, they've been surprised that i would go out to a bar on a friday night as a regular social activity. or that i would go to what was essentially a slightly grown up version of a kegger. that i wouldn't immediately leave a party when i smelled marijuana. that i laughed about the cross-dressing that i witnessed at a "shock your mom" party (one of the funniest nights ever) rather than being horrified. that when my boyfriend in virginia said 'f*** you' to me, i usually laughed at him because it was never said in anger but rather as part of a teasing that helped make our relationship happy.

i don't want to simply condemn people who would have refused to participate in such activities. i know that different people have different tolerance levels for different things. i respect that. but i think that a lot of people also create their own offense by focusing on something they consider unacceptable rather than looking past it. in my mind, it's far better to hear someone swear without it ruining my day or foreclosing the possibility of knowing that person, and the happiness that friendship with them might bring, than to try to shut myself off from all sources of behavior i deem inappropriate for myself.

what it boils down to for me is this: i want to know and love my world. all of it, not just that part that fits my preconceived notion of good. and focusing on the things i do not like so much that i fail to see wonderful new things or old things in new ways--well, that strikes me as the best way to refuse to know and love my world. and it seems to me that when we're so tuned in to potential sources of offense, we actually grant them much more control of our minds and spirits than they would have if instead we let them roll off our backs and instead we looked for the beautiful.