Saturday, June 4, 2011

On the Topic of Wishing

As usual, I'm a couple weeks late in getting 'caught up' on reading my favorite blogs, and find that Beck has posted another great reflection spiced with questions and followed up with many good comments, on the longing realities of living in a mixed orientation marriage. That is, despite all the love, blessings and good intent, there is still part of us hungering for connections that probably just won't happen. It's simply because we've made and continue to make personal choices and commitments to maintain our family relationships, the benefits of which we believe outweigh the obvious alternative of persuing relationships via our more natural orientation. Such discipline doesn't stop the longing, but perhaps it does teach us about what is really important.

So, for what it's worth, I'll post my latest poem, which I've been working on for several months.

On the Topic of Wishing

During a sunny winter day in February,
That I was outside, doing something else,
Like walking the beach, hiking through woods,
Or rooting around in a flower garden sky
Of bright Zinnias, which remind one that
There is only so much life yet to enjoy
Until you slowly fade away and die.

Yes, I’m slowly growing tired and broken.
And today here I am, inside the closed box,
Ticking away at tasks, building critical mass
Of details probably important only to me.
Perhaps I should put the yellow pencil down,
Step away from this momentary diversion
Of writing a poem, and just drive to the sea.

Oh to wander the wet glistening sand, listen
To the pounding surf and savor the salty air
Filling my lungs, my soul, my quiet longing for
Touch and something I cannot quite describe,
And yet I feel the void, so easily distracted!
The setting sun enflames the wide vacant path
Along the foaming edge, driven with the tide.

Perhaps then, wishing is for dreamers who
Go nowhere, lost in their reality of minutia,
More consumed in maintenance than actually
Moving forward, not owning their time and place,
Whereas the new golden fronds of sword fern
Rise from rich earth and slowly uncurl into deep
Green spears of living flesh, and find their face.

I am told to wish for peace and joy. It works
For me, most of the time. And yet, it is slippery.
I watch it slither into the still and murky water
That decomposes the leaves and memories of guilt
Now dissolving as a rotting carcass of what I was
And recycling who I am becoming. Such living water
Shall fertilize my soul and deliver me from wilt.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

My Queer Defense

Monday evening my wife and I attended an informational gathering sponsored by Basic Rights Oregon (BRO), which is a political action group committed to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and is bringing marriage equality to the ballot in Oregon, hopefully next year. We listened to the Executive Director detail their research and efforts in producing and airing an ad campaign, "Love, Commitment, Marriage." After viewing two of the commercials and hearing about the results of a recent TV media blast in Oregon, she opened up for questions from the audience about how things are going. After two years of effort, progress in this liberal State of Oregon stands at around 100,000 "yes" votes, which is about half of what is needed to launch a ballot initiative. It was an interesting discussion of strategy and tactics for turning public opinion and winning the opportunity for all people to enjoy the benefits of marriage. At the end of this Q&A session, the last question posed was basically an attack on the Mormon Church and its efforts during Prop 8, and how would BRO work against similar campaigns of opposition.

As the Director struggled to respond with a politically correct answer, I felt a surge of desire to stand and offer an insider viewpoint. So I raised my hand forcefully and was acknowledged for "one more question." I said I didn't have a question, but rather a response to the previous question. I said, "I am queer in this group. I am an active GAY Mormon." I went on to express my embarrassment and shame over the actions of my church in the California Prop 8 battle, and how this has been a tremendous turning point for many members of the Church to question what Church leaders did in manipulating members to support a political campaign. I explained that I didn't think the Church anticipated the damaging public image, the 'black eye,' that came as a consequence of their involvement, or the loss of support from within the church. I said I doubted that such overt tactics would be used again. I concluded with my hope that change was occuring within the church, and that Church Leaders were making efforts to listen and respond to LGBT members of the church. My comments basically ended the meeting and afterwards, a dozen or so individuals came up to me and wanted to shake my hand or hug me for my words. I was frankly amazed at the outpouring of love, and that I could have something to say that made a difference.

My wife and I have had a couple exploratory interactions with BRO, to see how we might fit into their efforts, but we were kind of on the fence as to how to we might contribute in a meaningful way. After this experience, I think I may have found a voice, a niche to reach out and help us 'hold hands' with faith communities, which BRO desperately needs to participate in the marriage conversation. I don't like the 'Us versus Them' mentality that often pits groups with passionate thinking against one another. Both sides lose in these confrontations, but we especially, since it is our hearts that must change towards inclusiveness and understanding, regardless of who "wins" in the short-term. The gay community cannot afford to practice bigotry towards people of faith. Whether the 'opponent' is Mormon, Catholic, or Evangelical, I deeply believe there are significant segments of these populations that will listen and consider a message of fairness, of treating LGBT people with compassion, according to the Golden Rule. If someone genuinely believes in the primacy of family relationships and is critical of promiscuity, as our culture certainly does, why would they interfere with someone else's desire to stand up in front of family and friends and and make a commitment to love and cherish, in good times and bad?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Sometimes we need to spell it out.

It's Valentine's Day, and I'm overdue on posting to my blog. I don't think I've talked much in the past about my 'Sweetheart,' the person I fell in love with, head over heels. This beautiful woman was smart, independent, and she even turned me on. It's true, the first and only woman I ever really kissed, and someone I genuinely felt attracted to. Maybe I could actually do this marriage thing after all. Yes, I "struggled with SSA," but she proved to me that I wasn't gay, and maybe I could leave all those feelings of gender insecurity behind me. I was 24, tired of being alone, and naivete was the name of the game, actually, it was the only game I knew.

Oh my sweet Susie-Q was clever, spoke with a British accent, and made me feel like a million bucks. We could talk about anything, she made me laugh, we played games, went to movies, and I was happy to be her friend. But she didn't want to be just my friend. She told me she had plenty of friends, so what was I going to do? It was refreshing, a woman who called me out of my comfort zone, who demanded I make my intentions clear. "Okay," I said and then gulped a big breath for courage, "I only want to date you, I want to see if we can make it work." Not sure what "it" was, but I had made a commitment she was hoping for. Only, I didn't really get the dating game, the romance game, because such courting rituals didn't come naturally. Case in point, Valentine's Day 1981 and two weeks before our wedding, I didn't get around to buying a Valentine card... I put it off, got distracted, and didn't think it really mattered. Boy, was I wrong! Perhaps that oversight should have been a big flashing red light for her, but she forgave me and we still got married. (I don't think I've missed a Valentine Card yet, in 30 years, so the grief she gave me for that indescretion must have made a lasting impression.) Unfortunately, what I didn't learn from that experience, and one that I'm still trying to do better on, was her basic need to be cherished. Living through the disconnects of a mixed orientation marriage means this is a BIG problem. How can she possibly feel cherished, revered as the only one true love, my eternal Queen, when I feel emptiness and long for connection with other men? It breaks her heart. And it breaks my heart that I hurt her so. There are no easy answers to this one.

Flash forward thirty years, and now we're empty nesters. We can walk around the house again without any clothes, if we feel like it. We have great kids who are getting on with their lives and their own families, beautiful grandchildren, and we hope for many good years to come. And I still love her. My heart is committed to her, to us and our family. Perhaps not with the same naive love of my young adulthood, since a lot of floodwater has gone under the bridge, but I've weighed our options, and I want to grow old with her. I love her caring, her sense of humor, her gentle smiles when she first sees me come through the door, and the simple things that bring her joy. I am comfortable with her, even if all the lines don't always match up. I can tell her my frustrations and she still listens. My Sweetie is one of the most kind and loyal persons I know...the proof is that she hasn't given up on me yet.

So can I spell it out any better than L-O-V-E? Only that it happens one day at a time, one opportunity at a time to hold, to cherish, to forgive and be forgiven.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Write in my heart! (again)

Happy New Year! It has been a long long time since I last blogged, and yet I feel the pull to begin writing again in 2011. I hope to use my blog again as a place to share my thoughts and have dialogue with friends, which is something I've missed since moving to Oregon and being so consumed with a new life. Please feel free to banter with me.

The recent discussions in Beck's and JGW's blogs on the topic of faith, doubt and authenticity got me thinking about a poem I've been working on, and the
struggles I've had lately with trying to reconcile my discontent with church leaders and feeling a sense of place and happiness at church. Faith is no longer a simple thing for me. Part of me wishes I could go back to the years of complete confidence in and testimony of the 'true and living' church, but I suspect that what I am learning is more valuable to myself and closer to the truth of things as they really are, and not as I want them to be.

Following is a rather edgy poem for me, one that has been trying since the middle of November to get a voice that I am satisfied with. I'm still a little unsettled with it, but have decided to let it rest, publish it, and see what anyone has say. I usually don't talk back to the Lord, but it all started in response to the reading assignment in Jeremiah for the Old Testament Sunday School class. I've not read much of Jeremiah before, except for the sound-bite snippets we usually hear, like in Jeremiah 31 which the poem responds to. But I also found much of his writing, such as is in Jeremiah 16, to be troubling because of his condemnation and anger with the people. Maybe the Lord really did want him to say all the terrible things he said to the Israelites, but I know there are always two sides to a story, and human perspective often tends to be one-sided or bigoted. And so, my poem explores the exasperation we may feel as gay LDS, the feelings of condemnation, the doubt,
the blind leading the blind, the need for acceptance and redemption, and finally the call for attention from a living prophet.

Write in my Heart! (again)

Will you make our land desolate?
I'm no better than my dead father.
So call on my obstinate soul to break,
To turn away the path of destruction.

As yet, your rod of iron rusts.

Do not whisper or sigh softly
If you want me to hear, for crying
Out loud... Only then will I let the
Sound fall flat, the silence speak,

And wait for you.

Allay the pale and trembling fear,
My dread that you are not here
To listen to me. I am open to your
Transcription on my inward parts.

There scrawl your name.

I am, I am, I am hoping you are near.
Did I not feel you present, your hands
On my believing head, a blessing
Urging me to seek, to love, to see?

How then, to stumble in darkness!

Christ, I am falling in your ditch--
And I am not alone, we are legion.
Forgive us, spent and hungry,
With only a cardboard sign saying

“Anything Helps… God Bless!”

But this is our writing, not yours.
All we ask is your signature on
The corrugated line, redeeming us.
Jeremiah, where are you now?