Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Merry Christmas

The influence of Christ in my life is immeasurably huge.  In honor of His birth we celebrate Christmas.  December was undoubtedly the wrong time of year.  It should have been spring.  But it doesn't really matter.  It doesn't change the fact that we are celebrating his birth.  We similarly should be forgiving of little indiscretions that people in our culture inevitably make.  Christ gave us a beautiful example of being forgiving yet also expecting improvement.  I hope everyone has a fantastic holiday!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Gay Culture

I have long felt that the gay/straight dichotomy that we use today is largely a product of our culture, and not something that is inherent to human beings.  We commonly use our culture as a lens in which we view the world.  That means that many of our views are very ethnocentric.  There's a strong cultural aspect to the Church, too.  I don't believe that culture is bad, but it's important to recognize it for what it is.

So when I came across this article, I was pleased (and somewhat surprised) to find that most scholars of gay history (most of whom are gay, themselves) agree with me.  Don't get turned off by the unfortunate title that claims that nobody is "born that way."  The article is referring to the lens in which we view sexuality, not that our predilections are somehow our choice.  In other words, when we say "I was born that way" or "God made me this way," it's not precisely true because we are actually defining our sexuality according to our culture, not biologically.  Defining our orientations is a decidedly modern aspect of our culture that, according to the article, may have come about when "doctors began to pathologize those who spoke of same-sex desires or experiences.  Those patients developed homosexual identities, which led others to distinguish themselves as heterosexual."

The whole commercialization of erotic desires in the past century or so has changed the way we see sexuality through our cultural lens.  The culture of the Church is trying to counter that view with an alternate culture that sees human sexuality in a different way.  Sometimes this leads to misunderstandings between people of differing cultures.  I think that is a large part of the dichotomy that we see when dealing with sexual orientation and the Church.  With patience and healthy communication, things will get better.

As an aside, I want to make something clear.  According to this view, orientation is not inherent biologically, and so is not like racial identification.  But discrimination is not merely a racial issue.  Religious discrimination is often not racial, either, but I still think it is wrong.  Support for gay rights does not need to depend on "born this way" arguments.  It's enough to assert that just because some people disagree with you, that is no reason to limit their protection under the law.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Gender Dysphoria

One thing I have a hard time getting my mind around is transgender individuals, often referred to as those experiencing gender dysphoria.  I, personally, grew up gay.  As I look at my young childhood through that lens, I can see aspects that may have indicated my orientation.  Or it may just be confirmation bias.  Regardless, I never doubted that I was male, and never even once wanted to be female.

I have been taught all my life that gender stereotypes were largely cultural.  Dresses, high heels, and makeup were not first developed for women's use exclusively, but eventually became culturally identified with females.  I have read that biological males who are transgender feel a strong need to wear female trappings.  They have a desire to express the cultural markers of females.  To me this is strange, because those cultural markers have little to do with actually being female, only our current perception of feminine appearance.

And another thing I don't know is whether or not transgender individuals' orientations follow their biological gender, or their perceived gender.  Are there examples of both?  Is one predominant?  Is it largely cultural, like their desire to appear culturally as their perceived gender, or is it biological, more like my own experience?  I don't want to sound rude.  I'm truly curious.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Realizations

I know I didn't choose my orientation.  But I always assumed it wasn't genetic.  I mean, how could this trait be genetic when it's primary effect would be to make it less likely to reproduce?  It should be selected against.  Then I saw an interesting statistic that second sons were more likely to be gay than first sons, third sons more likely than second, etc.  More importantly, this held regardless of whether older brothers were present, stillborn, adopted away, etc., and did not hold for adoptive brothers, only biological brothers.  This indicated to me that there was something in the gestational chemistry that seemed to affect orientation.

But now I've changed my mind.  Some great research has come to light indicating that a collection of genetic factors could have a strong influence on being attracted to males.  In guys, it makes them more likely to be gay.  But in girls, it increases the average number of children they have.  So because of the larger families, it is not something selected against.  In fact, it could be selected for.  Also, if you are a second or third son, you are more likely from a larger family, and so more likely to have the genetic predisposition.  It's all beginning to make sense now.  There is a very logical genetic factor in orientation.  I love having these cool realizations.

Please note that this does not mean there is a gay gene.  Rather, it means that there are genetic factors in the development of orientation.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Gratitude

I have so many blessings to be grateful for.  There is no way I could possibly list them all.  In particular, though, I am very grateful for my family.  I grew up in a house where I knew I would be loved no matter what.  I never came out to my family, but I have no doubt that they would not have loved me less.  It was just less complicated to stay in the closet.

I am thankful for my family now.  I have always been supported by my wife and children, and have always been out to my wife.  She is an amazing and wonderful woman, the only woman I have ever been in love with.

I am thankful for my home, my job, the schools my children attend, the country in which I live that affords so many freedoms,

Have a terrific thanksgiving, everyone.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Maturing

I recall being a primary aged youth and interacting with other children.  I had lots of friends of both genders.  In retrospect, I was more sensitive and aware of the boys, but I didn't really pay it much mind, as I wasn't very mature at that age.  I didn't really pay attention to my own attractions until later.  When I was 12, things completely changed and I started to get super interested in guys.

I knew I was supposed to be interested in girls.  Somehow, I wasn't.  I had lots of friends, and many of them were girls.  I just didn't have romantic attractions that direction.  I recall trying to be attracted to girls.  It just didn't work.  Rather, it felt ... I don't know ... icky somehow.  I suppose it's the way most guys would feel if they tried to force themselves to be attracted to a guy.

I've always been curious as to how straight guys develop and what similarities and differences there are.  But I've never been able to ask anyone.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

A Bad Argument

I recently read an article that I enjoyed.  For the most part, I agreed with the author.  But one thing bothered me.  A gay young adult told a friend he wanted to get married because he wanted a full life, wanted children.  The friend replied, "What about the woman?"  So with that thought, he eventually decided that his desires were not fair to the women he might date.  I will agree that this argument is great support for being honest with those you court.  It would be totally unfair for a gay guy to hide his orientation from girls he courts.  However, I don't like the way the argument has been used in general.  Every insecure person who doubts their own worth could use this argument to avoid dating.  How about a guy who cannot have kids.  Is it wrong for him to date?  I mean, what about the girl?  Is it fair to get married to someone when you can't offer the possibility of children to your wife?

I'm not saying that it's okay for a person to marry someone to whom they are not attracted.  Rather, I'm saying that the argument given is not a good one.  Basically, since someone is gay, should he give up any dreams of having a family, because it's not fair to the girl, is a terrible argument?  Replace "gay" with "ugly" or "disabled" and the same argument shows its wrong headed nature.

Rather, when a guy doesn't really love the girl, feels trapped into the marriage by their culture, but is constantly wishing his life was different, well, that can lead to marital problems and often divorce.  It shouldn't happen, but it does.  And the guy doesn't even have to be gay.  Saying "no" to such a marriage is completely defensible.  But please use a reasonable argument.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Along Came a Woman

I think I've mentioned before that I never expected to get married so soon after my mission.  I was prepared for a longish single life.  But along came a woman who was everything I needed, and I was exactly what she needed.  We fit together and the rest is history.

Early on in our marriage, my wife mentioned that if something should happen to her and I ended up a widower, she wanted me to remarry so our kids would have a mother figure in the home.  I understood he desire.  I also know that I'm not the most organized person and would not make a great single parent.

But in the back of my mind I wondered if lightning could strike twice.  I don't think I've ever come across any other woman with whom I could form a marriage.  Firstly, being gay, I don't typically become attracted to women.  But I also have other personality quirks that would give other women a hard time.  I'm not exactly the easiest person to live with.

It's very difficult for me to even imagine that another woman would come along.  I don't feel like there is another compatible soul out there.  I already married the most amazing woman.  I'm glad after all these years my wife has remained healthy and strong, and I don't have to be single again.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Equality vs. Substance

I often find our American values a little weird.  For example, as Americans, we value equality more than substance.  Let me explain.  It is more highly valued to treat everybody the same way than to treat people with kindness.  If a person treats people with kindness but treats some people better than others, that is a terrible thing.  But if a person treats everyone with equal unkindness, well, at least they aren't a bigot.

I had an acquaintance who told me that he had no respect for anybody but himself.  I though that was an odd thing to say, because when you observed him, he didn't really appear to have any self respect, either.  If the primary goal is to treat everyone equally, it is so much easier to treat everyone with equal disrespect than to try to have respect for everyone.

If our goal is to have love for everyone, I think it's better for people to start with unequal love, and work to be more inclusive, rather than to start with universal hate and try to raise it to love uniformly.  The value needs to come selectively before the uniform application is possible.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Temporary Marriage

If a widow was sealed to her husband, and she remarries, she cannot be sealed for time and eternity to her second husband.  I had a friend who was that second husband.  He basically wasn't allowed to be sealed to his wife.  Since it was his first marriage, he didn't get to be sealed at all.  It seemed very unfair to me, but I suppose it will all be sorted out in the spirit world.  Still, it seems a bit unsatisfactory to me here and now.

I want to point out that the church allows for these marriages, despite the fact that they cannot be eternal.  It's not unprecedented that the church supports marriages that do not lead to eternal families, so it seems possible that the church might lighten up a bit when it comes to same gender marriage.  However, even if that happens, same gender couples might very well be like my friend who is not allowed to be sealed to his wife and children.

I consider this post to be wild speculation, so please take it with a grain of salt.  I don't think there is any mortal on Earth who truly understands all the intricacies of this issue.  I have confidence in the leaders of the church when it comes to revelatory changes.  After all, "we believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God."  (9th Article of Faith)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

In Defense of Marriage

I believe in marriage.  I think one of the most tragic things was the way no-fault divorce laws were constructed in the U.S.  It was Ronald Reagan, that sly one who, as governor of California, crafted no-fault divorces to be convenient for movie stars.  

I much prefer the way the laws were written in Sweden.  There, if a couple have children under 16, there is a year waiting period for no-fault divorce.  That makes so much sense to me.  It allows for no-fault divorce, but at the same time, it tries to protect children.  In the U.S. the laws treat children like an afterthought -- like baggage that gets in the way of sexually fulfilling lives for the parents.

If someone really wants to support laws that defend marriage, that support family values, they ought to be lobbying for a change in the no-fault divorce laws rather than trying to fight gay marriage.  Put energy where it will be useful.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Stereotypes

When we talk about gay stereotypes, we are usually referring to their affects on the gay oriented.  But there is also a pretty profound effect on the straight oriented.  More and more, to prevent themselves from being seen as gay, straight oriented boys and men limit their emotional range and the depth of their interactions with others.  These kinds of limitations can lead to poor mental health and can interfere with forming relationships.

The cry of "no homo" puts a terrible damper on what used to be ordinary interactions.  Often, guys will actively change their interests, their habits, even their sense of self simply because of the desire to make their straight orientation clear to others.  That can't be very healthy.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Fighting Fire with Fire?

When I was a kid, the phrase "fight fire with fire" never made very much sense to me.  I would assume that if my home were on fire, I would not want to fight the fire by adding to the flame.

I have children, and that means that sometimes I see one of my children hurt another.  The weirdest thing is when, as an act of penance, I guess, the perpetrator hurts themselves to make up for it.  I think to myself that the act does nothing for the hurt child.  But now two of my children are hurt.

I think this kind of reasoning is pointless and fruitless.  That's why I though Emma Watson's speech to the UN was so good.  It pointed out that feminism needs to not be perceived as "man hating."  So often we get the idea that to fight discrimination, we should discriminate in the opposite direction to balance it out.  If that is the primary method of feminism, then it is going to be seen as man hating -- basically hate men as much as women perceive that they are hated.  That's pretty unsatisfying.

Rather, let's build each other up.  Let's be positive.  Let's look at the real goal and work for it together.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Assumptions

We all make assumptions that color our communications.  Recently I noticed some research that asserted that over 90% of recently married Americans had sex before their marriages.  While I don't find this surprising, I think it is surprising that so many people think that this is inevitable and even desirable.

I come from a Mormon culture where teens are asked to abstain until marriage.  A surprisingly high percentage of them do so.  I realize that this is definitely not in the mainstream of American culture.

So, what about those of us who have gay orientations?  While this is a question that hasn't really been answered well, some things are sure.  The idea that teens should be allowed to express themselves by having sex is definitely off the table.  I don't think the church should have a different standard based on orientation, in this instance.  Regardless of American or any other culture, I think this one is a given.

I'm pretty sure that there will be no temple sealings of same gender couples any time in the near future, and likely won't happen at all.  It would take quite a huge overturning of doctrinal understanding to effect any change in this aspect of Mormonism.  It would take even more work to prepare the members for any such change.  Such a monumental change is typically not how the Lord develops the church.  Rather, it's here a little and there a little, line upon line.  So if there were any such change, it probably wouldn't be some huge announcement.  And I feel any such change is unlikely to begin with.

I think many of the pundits who challenge the current stand of church leaders on this issue are bringing with them assumptions about the Mormon culture that wildly distort their understanding.  This may be particularly true among those disaffected, former members who have had unfortunate experiences with members or leaders in the past.

It's so very hard to recognize our assumptions, let alone to account for them.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Both Wrong and Right

I was listening to a talk recently where the speaker mentioned the spirituality of Christopher Columbus.  The Italian explorer completely believed in his theory and felt that the spirit of the Lord supported it.  However, most political and scientific figures of his day felt his theory was wrong.  Here's the amazing thing.  The theory was completely wrong.  You see, Columbus believed that the estimates of the size of the world were too big, and it was possible to sail a ship from Spain to India.  However, that idea was rubbish.  The world was, in fact, roughly 25 thousand miles around, and there was no way the ships of the day would make it.  Despite the fact that he was completely wrong, the spirit may very well have moved him to go through with this plan.  Many people feel Columbus was the man referred to in 1st Nephi 13:12 on whom the Spirit of God wrought.  So even though Columbus was entirely wrong, what he did was the right thing to do.  That's a really weird sounding situation.

In reality, I think that the ministrations of the Spirit are more often about the rightness of our course of action rather than the accuracy of our theories about it.  In the days of the Nephites, many times the people wanted to reject the Law of Moses and move to a higher law, but they were reprimanded.  Even though it was known that salvation did not come through that law, they were expected to follow it until it was changed through proper channels and authority.  Finally after the resurrection of the Savior, that law was fulfilled and a higher law was given.

Back in the Roman Empire, the gospel was exclusively taught to the Jews for quite some time.  I'm sure many followers believed that there was something intrinsic about being Jewish in membership in Christ's church.  But it was not true, at least in the way they were thinking.  Still, until Peter received the revelation about preaching to the Gentiles, it was proper that only Jews could join the church.

When we try to impose our own philosophies as to why some policy is the way it is, we are often wrong.  Much more important is to know what we should do, how we should act.  Just because we receive some revelation that encourages us to do something, it doesn't mean we fully understand why we are to do it.  "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts," said the Lord in Isaiah 55:9.

Even if our ideas about the world are entirely wrong, if we follow the inspiration of the Spirit of the Lord, we will be doing the right thing.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Authenticity

I firmly believe that orientation is not something that we choose.  It's something that is simply a part of the circumstances of our existence.  Choices that we make have little to nothing to do with the orientation of our attractions.  Few people of any orientation choose who they suddenly have a crush on.

This is precisely why I don't think our orientations themselves are a part of our identity.  Our identity is made of the consequences of our choices, and we don't choose our orientations.  We can embrace things about ourselves that we didn't choose, and and the choice to do so makes them parts of our identities.  But we all have aspects of our selves that we didn't choose, and that we don't count as part of our identities.  I happen to have an extremely high number of moles.  Is that important?  Not to me (except that it makes me more prone to skin cancer, so I have to see a dermatologist more often).  I don't embrace it as part of my identity.  It's not something that I should ignore about myself, but it doesn't make me who I am.

When people claim that in order to be authentic, we have to embrace our orientations, that strikes me as somehow wrong.  I can be perfectly authentic without embracing my identity as a moley person.  I don't think moles make me bad, or even particularly unhealthy.  I didn't choose it.  So it's not part of my identity and I don't have to "own up to it" to be authentic, even though I don't ignore the fact.

On the other hand, I choose to be LDS.  I choose to work on strengthening my marriage and my family.  I work on becoming better at my occupation.  These are things I have to put effort into.  They make up large parts of my identity.  I would be utterly inauthentic if they didn't.  So if someone puts a lot of effort into their orientation, sure it will become an important part of their identity.  But I don't.  It takes no effort on my part to be attracted to guys.  If I continue to not put effort into being gay, it will still fail to be an important part of my identity, and I don't consider myself inauthentic.  That doesn't mean it goes away.  It's not something that I should ignore, or feel guilty about, any more than having moles.  But it doesn't have to define me.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Don't Judge Me

How often do we worry that we are being judged?  I think it is a common feeling, and often it is justified.  However, I also think we are not always very good at deciding when we are being judged.  When someone holds us to a high standard, would that be considered judging?  It shouldn't be.  But we sometimes feel that way.  When parents have high expectations for their children, do the children think they are being judged?  They often do, but they shouldn't.  I think parents should expect their children to put forth good efforts in school.  For many children, holding high academic standards for them is also appropriate.  I don't think this kind of thing is being judgmental.

The problem is that sometimes we are judgmental.  And when someone reacts to the judging, they often reject the other stuff as well.  I think this plays into the fact that those who participate in homosexual relationships are also more likely to smoke, abuse drugs, have multiple sexual partners, and other risky behavior.  In rejecting the judgments of others, they also reject the standards that others hold.  LDS kids are taught to not have sexual relations before marriage.  I realize that it is not always easy, but a large number of youth live up to this standard.  However, those who have gay orientations are far more likely to reject the standard if they decide to pursue relationships with their own gender.  They reject the expectation of chastity which in their mind is connected to a straight orientation.  Children in public schools are commonly taught of the dangers of smoking, but upon rejecting standard straight relationships, people often reject other standard societal messages, like the warnings about smoking.  Then when others who love us question our behavior, we reply with "don't judge me," when the question may not have been about judgment, but rather concern for our well-being.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

How Are We Saved? (Part II)

In part one, I wrote about the idea of cleanliness.  I want to now look at our role and the role of the Savior, and what this means about a famously misunderstood scripture.  Nephi made the following statement:
For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do. (2 Nephi 25:23)
I think that many people read too much into this scripture.  There is some kind of idea that we save ourselves partway and grace makes up the rest.  I don't believe that's what Nephi meant.  But he's right, we do have to do something.  We can't be saved unless we repent.  In part one, I used an analogy involving a child playing in the mud.  It is clearly impossible for such a child to clean their faces using their muddy hands.  The child's responsibility is to get out of the mud.  The parent with the hose does the actual cleaning.  Similarly, the atonement is what does the cleaning.  All our efforts to save ourselves are like a child trying to clean themselves using their muddy hands.  It gets nowhere.  But if the child refuses to leave the mud, the hose does little good.

All we can do is repent, and remove ourselves from situations that lead to sin.  The actual saving, that which cleanses us and makes us worthy, is done by the grace of Christ, through His atonement.  So Nephi is exactly right.  It is by grace we are saved, after all we can do.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

How Are We Saved? (Part I)

When Amulek was teaching in Ammonihah, the need for a Savior became a point of contention.  What would the role of the Savior be, if He was even necessary?  We get this passage:
And Zeezrom said again: Shall he save his people in their sins? And Amulek answered and said unto him: I say unto you he shall not, for it is impossible for him to deny his word. (Alma 11:34)
Zeezrom takes great umbrage at this, asking what use would the Savior be if he didn't save the people.  But Amulek responds that God "said that no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore, how can ye be saved, except ye inherit the kingdom of heaven? Therefore, ye cannot be saved in your sins."

I hear similar ideas being bandied about today.  The concepts of worthiness and cleanliness are being portrayed as evil.  We all sin, so the thought goes, and we cannot be perfect in this life.  So the focus of the church on worthiness and cleanliness is destined to bring misery to its members who can never reach such lofty goals.  It's like Zeezrom's thought that a Savior that doesn't save the people in their sins doesn't do us much good.

But to those who read carefully, the answer to this conundrum becomes much clearer when several generations later, Helaman teaches his sons the following:
And remember also the words which Amulek spake unto Zeezrom, in the city of Ammonihah; for he said unto him that the Lord surely should come to redeem his people, but that he should not come to redeem them in their sins, but to redeem them from their sins.  (Helaman 5:10)
I love that scripture.  The way I think of it, imagine a child who wants to eat dinner, who is playing in the mud.  A parent has a hose with which to clean the child off.  But to clean up for dinner, the child must leave the mud.  The hose doesn't do much good if the child stays in the mud.  And the child will not be allowed to eat in such a filthy state.  Similarly, to be saved, we must repent, and leave our sins.  Yes, everyone sins, and we don't need to feel despair about having sinned.  However, we also shouldn't feel so comfortable in this sinful state that we remain there, and fail to achieve the blessings of the atonement.  Like the child, we need to get out of the mud so the hose can do its work.  That's what it takes to be worthy, to be clean.  We have to repent often and remove ourselves from sinful situations so the atonement of Christ can clean us.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Homo-

I'm sure lots of people have heard the news that a gentleman was fired from an English language learner site for an article about homophones.  Evidently, the owner didn't want to be associated with homosexuals.  My first question is why someone who teaches English doesn't know what a homophone is.  That's like a math teacher not knowing the definition of "quotient".

Then there is the inherent homophobia in this firing.  The owner is so afraid of homosexuality that he is disturbed by the use of the "homo-" prefix.  This reminds me of the man that had to quit his job because he used the word "niggardly" and people were offended by its similarity to a taboo word.

Anyway, here's a link to the article.  I enjoyed all the comments about homo sapiens and homogenized milk.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Language and Culture

I have always been extremely uncomfortable when people use terms such as "gay" and "fag" in the often heard derogatory manner.  They were extremely common terms in the vocabulary of my acquaintances at school when I was a high school student.  For someone with a gay orientation, I suppose my disdain for these terms is perfectly natural.  Stepping back, it's interesting to see what our language says about our culture.  While I think the term "homophobic" is tossed around haphazardly which dilutes its meaning, it still is a good word to describe a culture where "gay" and "fag" are used as swear words.

Other terms that were prevalent among high school students that seem to be growing in popularity, like the so-called "f-bomb" have strong sexual underpinnings, and are indicative of a society that tolerates sexual harassment and misogyny.  Recently I read an article decrying such a culture, but it was laced with f-bombs that made it hard for me to take the author seriously.  On the one hand, the author decried the sexism of institutions that protect sexual harassment, while on the other hand the author used language that is designed to shock through its sexual indecency.  It would be like saying "homophobia is so gay" or something like that.  If we want to change the culture, we need to change ourselves, including how we communicate.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Happily Ever After

In an interesting article (click here to read) a marriage counselor warns about the dangers of looking for prince charming in a relationship.  The article is giving advice mostly to straight women, but the principle is still the same.  One of the points he made really made sense to me.  He said that:
Both men and women need to look deeper into character, personality and compatibility to build a marriage with a happily ever after ending. Sure, you want to marry somebody who is attractive. But attractiveness is no basis for marriage.
I think this is true for any marriage, be it straight, gay, or mixed orientation.  This particular advice also helps explain how mixed orientation marriages can work.  They have to be based on character, personality, and compatibility.  That, along with a willingness to work for the relationship, is the basis of any happily ever after.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Risky Behavior

The problem with gathering data about those with homosexual orientations is the relative reluctance of many of us to identify as "gay" or "lesbian."  This leads to all kinds of biased data.  For instance, consider the following report from the CDC (click here).  In their study less than 2 percent of those studied identified as gay or lesbian, yet the percentage of people whose orientations are homosexual is usually considered to be much higher than that.  So what we have is an interesting bias.  In the study, we see much more risky behavior (smoking, binge drinking) among those who identify as gay than those who identified as straight.  But that's not too surprising due to the bias.  Many people consider coming out and admitting your orientation as a serious risk.  Gay-oriented people who are more risk-averse are therefore less likely to admit their orientation to others, and so more likely to be included with the straight individuals in this study.  In the end, what we really find in this study is that gay people who are less risk-averse are more likely to exhibit risky behavior.  Umm ... yeah.  We kind of knew that.  Until people feel more safe admitting their orientations, it is going to be really hard to get good data of any kind about those of us with gay orientations.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Male

I have always been very comfortable in my own skin.  One of my favorite qualities of myself is that I'm male.  I wouldn't have it any other way.  I know my wife feels the same way about being female, and I'm fine with that.  But I'm glad it's her and not me.

First, I hate makeup!  How can ladies stand putting in on and washing it off all the time?  I have to wear stage makeup when I'm acting in a play, and I detest it.  I always break out in a mild acne rash the week after a play.  I'm glad I'm not a woman.

Second, I really prefer a more constant level of hormones, rather than the monthly swing girls have to put up with.  In fact, almost everything about that monthly process makes me very glad I'm a guy.

Third, I relish the cultural leniency that guys have with wardrobe.  I can wear that same t-shirt that I've worn for years, even though there may be a hole or two developing, and I can say "it's just a guy thing" and get away with it.  (Well, until my wife throws it out when I'm not looking.)  I'm also very comfortable in a shirt and tie.  Let's just say, I like guy clothes.

Finally, I really just love being me, and I happen to be male.  I wouldn't want to change it.  Even my orientation is something that I love about myself.  I wouldn't want to have to change, and have to learn a whole new set of emotional adaptions to deal with girls.  I've already spent so much time and energy dealing with my attraction to guys.

Overall, I love being a boy.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Gender Identity

My orientation is gay, but to be clear, I identify quite strongly as male.  Since my physiological gender is male, that works very well for me.  I just happen to find other males attractive, rather than females.  I have no desire to dress in drag, nor do I find guys in feminine clothing to be remotely attractive.  I'm not attracted to girls, so dressing up as girls doesn't appeal to me.  So where does this cross-dressing thing come from?  I don't get it.

Please don't confuse this with those who are transgender, those who strongly identify as one gender, but are physiologically the other.  I don't think that's what's going on.  Or maybe it is.  For so long, people have mixed up gender identity with orientation.  Maybe it's because they get lumped together, LGBTQ and whatever new letters they are adding to the list.  I've heard that list referred to as "gender confusion" before, but that seemed really wrong to me.  I am not confused about my gender or that of others, and I'm definitely part of the G from the list.

Maybe people in the gay culture have cultivated a ritual of cross-dressing that has strong meaning to them, helping to set them apart from others, part of that gay-pride thing.  I could see something like that developing socially.  Still, it seems somehow wrong to me.  It's part of the gay culture that's always made me kind of uncomfortable.  Could someone explain it to me?

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Right to Be Crushed

Nothing bothers me more than the argument that a gay oriented man is somehow harming his wife if he marries a woman.  There's this weird idea of a right to have your spouse have a crush on you.  I detest this thinking largely because it leads to so much divorce among traditional heterosexual couples, let alone those with other orientations.  A natural consequence of this "right" is that when the honeymoon and glow of newlywed-ness wears off (and it will for almost every couple) it is time for the couple to consider divorce because their partner can no longer provide them with that crush.

I love the story of the poet Thomas Moore whose wife recovered from small pox, and wouldn't show her face because it was disfigured.  Thomas penned the lyrics to "Believe Me If All Those Endearing Young Charms" about how it doesn't matter how she looks; he will always love her.  That's what real love is, when the physical attractiveness is gone, the love is still there.

For my part, I never felt that fall from the honeymoon state in my own marriage.  I attribute it to the fact that I fell in love with my wife despite being attracted to men only, which means I didn't have the typical falling-out-of-attraction stage that many marriages go through.  I'm not saying I don't think my wife attractive, but my feelings for her developed as a whole rather than the common physical-first experience.

Granted, if a gay man was getting married to a woman simply because he felt obligated to do so, or because he wanted offspring, that is unlikely to be healthy.  And I would certainly expect anyone considering marriage to be honest with their prospective fiancĂ© about their orientation.  But a marriage based on physical attraction is also unlikely to be healthy.  Some women feel that they need their spouse to be completely physically infatuated with them, and I agree that it's their choice.  Don't marry a gay man.  But don't be surprised and offended if your spouse sometimes finds others more physically attractive than you.  Like Thomas Moore's wife, it was something she had to get over, and realize that true love, in the end, has little to do with physical attractiveness.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Homophobia

The term "homophobia" gets tossed around an awful lot, and many instances don't make any sense.  This causes some people to reject the concept, since it is not  used consistently.  So, I thought I'd give some examples of what I believe to be homophobia, and examples of what is not.

1.  If someone believes that homosexual infidelity is somehow worse than heterosexual infidelity, then that is indeed homophobia.  For example, if a man cheating on his wife cheats with another man, is that worse than if he cheats with another woman?  I would consider those who believe so to be homophobic.

2.  If someone believes that homosexuality is a choice, and people need to choose to not be gay, then that is ignorance, not homophobia.  Sure, ignorance can lead to homophobia (and be fostered by it), but this belief by itself is simply a lack of knowledge of the truth.

3.  When a young man is so afraid of appearing gay that he always makes comments to support his masculinity, and avoids any physical contact with other males (or constantly says "no homo" when such contact occurs), then that is homophobia.  This can be particularly acute when the young man in question is, himself, attracted to other guys, but trying to hide it (perhaps hoping that his orientation will change).

4.  When someone fails to support or vote for a law legalizing gay marriage, that does not make them homophobic.  Such voting could be caused by homophobia, and often is; but by itself, being politically or religiously against gay marriage is not enough information to determine if the person is homophobic.

A final note: in my view, homophobia is different from bigotry, and they are both different from bias.  Everyone has biases.  That doesn't make them bigots.  Homophobia is a state of irrational fear of homosexuality.  Bigotry is showing unkindness to others because of they belong to some particular group.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Open Mindedness

One of the things that has always bothered me is the concept of open mindedness.  In most instances, it's use is equivalent to "you should be open to my opinion."  There is a ton of open mindedness in the world, but mostly it is shown by children.  They are open to all kinds of ideas.  As we become teenagers, we recognize how gullible we were, and reject all open mindedness and become very obstinate.  We close our minds and assume we finally really understand things.  After that, we usually open up a little and eventually settle down with some very fixed beliefs.  Those beliefs are then very resistant to change.  We feel that we have had to be open minded to reach our beliefs, and others who don't believe them just haven't been open minded enough to get there yet.  This makes discussion very difficult.

I find that there are a lot of people who believe that orientation is somehow a choice, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.  No amount of argument or logic will change that opinion, in most cases.  Similarly, I've seen people believe that anyone who opposes gay marriage legalization is a hardened bigot.  Neither side shows the least bit of open mindedness.  In order to be open minded, what is required is humility, respect, and charity for others.  When these are not present, an open mind is hard to come by, and real discussion is almost impossible.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Intellectual

As a child, I always tended toward intellectual pursuits.  I loved learning, and so loved school.  I was not very good at homework and tasks, but did very well when taking tests.  When in Jr. High, I had a friend with whom I would philosophize and debate.  He was particularly muscular and well built, but my feelings for him were purely platonic.  I only tended to get romantic feelings for guys I didn't know well.

Anyway, this friend told me once that he had read that the smarter someone was, the more likely they were to be homosexual.  I knew that we both considered ourselves quite intelligent, and was wondering if he was trying to come on to me.  I didn't really give a response to him and he never brought it up again.  I never thought of him as more than a friend, but have always been curious as to his meaning.  It's possible that he figured out my orientation, and was letting me know that it was okay.  But I never figured it out.

Since that time, I have never heard such a statistic relating intelligence and orientation.  Has anyone else heard such a thing?

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Choosing Against Our Natures

I consider my orientation to be a part of my makeup.  I didn't choose it.  It's part of the fabric from which I am made.  However, as a member of the church, I don't have romantic relationships with other men.  Some people may question if it is wrong to ask someone to choose against their nature?  I contend that civilization is precisely that: asking people to choose against their natures.  For example, if you are hungry, you naturally want to eat the food available.  However, if you are civilized, you wait for the proper time to eat, you share food with others, you avoid foods that break with your moral code (vegans, for example), you control your diet for health reasons, etc.

I know people who are very competitive, so much so that it becomes hard to communicate with them some of the time.  These kinds of people often make excellent athletes or businessmen.  But to be civilized, they have to learn to compete within the rules.  That takes self control -- in particular, control to reign in their own natures and comply with society's laws and norms.

Some people may be better at this than others.  But all of us defy our own natures to exist in society.  There's an excellent article about the meaning of "free agency" that examines the evolutionary advantages that free will gives people.  In particular, the author claims: 
If you think of freedom as being able to do whatever you want, with no rules, you might be surprised to hear that free will is for following rules. Doing whatever you want is fully within the capability of any animal in the forest. Free will is for a far more advanced way of acting. It’s what a creature might need in order to adjust its behavior to novel situations, to get what it wants while still following the complicated rules of the society.  People must inhibit impulses and desires and find ways of satisfying them within the rules.
What makes free will powerful is the ability to follow commandments, despite the desire to break them.  I had a teacher once point out to me that free-form poetry's lack of rules makes it all sound rather similar, despite its more liberated nature.  A poet writing sonnets, however, must follow strict rules of rhyme and meter, and being expressed within that structure, the poems are more powerful and more distinct from others.  Similarly, our lives can be more powerful when we work within the rules, follow the commandments.

It is not some foreign idea to me that I should have to make choices against my natural instincts.  It is part of what makes me civilized.  It may seem harder for a gay-oriented person like me to find happiness and satisfaction within the structure of the Church, but it's harder to express ideas within the structure of a sonnet, too.  However, the poem and my happiness become more beautiful and powerful when we work within those rules.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Being Married

I read an interesting article by a therapist about five things that can cause friction in relationships that often lead to separation or divorce.  Here's a brief rundown:

1.  Believing that your aliveness is your partner's responsibility.
2.  Believing that relationships should be easy.
3.  Failing to understand that secrets are lies.
4.  Failing to understand that broken trust can be repaired.
5.  Failing to carve out quality time for your relationship.

This is an excellent list of attitudes to be wary of in a relationship, and points to ways to make a relationship stronger, by avoiding them.  I recognize that many people in so-called mixed-orientation-marriages can have trouble in their relationships.  What bothers me is when the trouble is blamed on orientation, when one of the five above is much more likely the culprit.

Also of interest to me is people who argue against a gay oriented man marrying a woman because the woman could never be fulfilled, never complete with such a man -- which sounds like attitude number 1 above.  It sounds like a dangerous attitude in a traditionally oriented marriage, let alone a mixed one.

Friday, May 23, 2014

New Title and Layout

When I first made this blog, I got the name gayoriented because I though of gay as an orientation rather than an identity.  I liked the idea that orientation was like eye color -- not something you chose, just an attribute.  I think of identity as having more to do with our choices.  So I used the blog title "My eyes are blue, but I'm not" to represent that idea.  But I was never clear about it, and I often wondered if most people understood, or just thought I had a weird way of naming my blog.  So I'm changing the name of my blog to match it's URL.  I am also messing a little with the layout.  I'm including a couple static pages linked at the top.  Let me know what you think.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Regular Posts

Wow, things have been crazy this year.  I usually write a bunch of blog posts at once and schedule them to be released over time.  But I've been so busy, this hasn't happened often enough, and my buffer of written posts has run dry.  Family stuff and work stuff and church stuff has all conspired to take up lots of time lately.  This blog has taken a back seat.  I'll eventually get everything up and running again, but it may take some time.  We'll see.  I haven't forgotten.  I've just been busy.  Eventually I hope to be back to regular posts.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Miracles

Think about the children of Israel, after Moses led them from Egypt.  We often wonder at how stupid they were not to recognize the significance of the miracles that Jehovah did for them, through their prophet.  But that's mainly because we look at the whole thing from our modern point of view.  Think about things from their point of view.  In Egypt, Pharaoh had magicians who guided the people through mystic powers and led in the name of deities.  The plagues and signs that Moses showed the people were simply an extension of the basic worldview of the Israelites.  Because of that, it was probably a lot harder for them to view these signs and wonders as the spectacular miracles that we do, and it became difficult for them to keep following Moses.

I wonder how often we have great miracles going on all around us, but because of the structure of our worldview we entirely fail to see their significance, fail to see the miracles for what they are.  We lose the essence of the wonder in the humdrum scientific explanations, missing the amazing miracles that we are being shown in these latter days.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Consistency

One of the real problems I see in the nature of discussions dealing with orientation is consistency of vocabulary.  For example, one person may say that being uncomfortable in the presence of two guys kissing makes a person bigoted against gays; then turns around and says that being gay is not a behavior, but an innate part of a person's being.  So, is being gay defined by one's orientation, or by the act of kissing other guys?  I would venture to guess that a majority of guys who have gay orientations do not participate in homosexual relationships.  This makes the discussion somewhat tricky.  If we define "gay" to refer to orientation rather than behavior, it would be inappropriate to disapprove of gay guys who choose heterosexual relationships.  On the other hand, if we argue that a gay guy in a heterosexual relationship is not being true to himself, then we seem to be arguing that gay should be accompanied by behavior, which means we shouldn't be offended when people refer to gay as a lifestyle choice.  By not keeping consistent definitions, it makes it easy to manipulate conversations, which can make us seem dishonest.

If we want people to consider "gay" to be an orientation rather than a lifestyle choice, then we should start sticking to that convention.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Genetic

I completely feel that my orientation was not my choice.  It's not some kind of decision I made.  But I can't accept that there is a big genetic component to it, either.  Think about it for a bit.  If it was genetic, it should be entirely lost from the genome after just a few generations.  Gay guys are definitely less likely to have children.  They are more likely to join a monastery or other group in which they are not likely to procreate.  The orientation would simply go away by natural deselection. But it doesn't.

Some people have speculated that there are strong sociological benefits to have a portion of the population this way.  But others also point out that homosexuality is manifest in many different mammalian species.  If it was sociologically important, we should primarily see it in species with human-like sociology, but it seems far more general than that.  So that's not likely, either.

The only thing I can possibly think of is that there is some genetic component that is advantageous to females, for which the natural side-effect is that some guys turn out gay.  That would make male and female homosexuality very very different from each other.  Actually, there is some evidence that the mechanism for male homosexuality could be very different from the mechanism for female homosexuality, so this would be a possibility.  But unless this turns out to be the case, I just don't think that natural selection would allow a genetically caused homosexuality.

I give it as my opinion that orientation is not a predominantly genetic trait.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

People Don't Change?

Okay, so I was watching the movie "Frozen" and the following lyrics are in one of the songs:
We aren't saying you can change him
'Cause people don't really change
I started thinking about how sad it would be if people weren't able to change.  Nobody could improve.  Nobody could learn.  Nobody could grow.  According to another movie, "Life is change."

Lots of things have changed for me throughout my life.  For example, I used to detest cheese.  I didn't like to eat it in any form.  Yes, I was the weird kid who didn't like pizza.  However, as I got older, my tastes changed.  I learned to enjoy many forms of cheese, and even changed my feelings for pizza.

Here's the question, though.  How much of my change was really choice?  Can we choose to change?  If we really want to change our preferences, can we just decide?  I don't think so.  My cheese example was something that changed slowly and naturally as I grew older.  I think most kids grow out of many of their dislikes as they mature.

Change is natural and healthy, so deciding that our preferences define us is dangerous.  When I was young, I decided that I wanted to be a scientist.  So naturally, I had to love my science classes and dislike English.  I defined myself by my love of things technical and my disdain for writing.  I really believed that it was me -- it was just who I was.  It wasn't until college that a professor was able to change this attitude.  I had to give up a part of my chosen identity and accept that I could write, that I did not have to be bad at English to be me.  It's surprising how hard giving up that part of my identity was, but it was a healthy change.

Similarly, I think it is not a good idea to define ourselves by our orientations.  "It's just who I am" is simply not true.  We have to not be defined by such things.  If we defined ourselves by our hair color, when our hair greys as we age it may seem as if we are losing our identity.  It's surprising how often this happens.  We all have a tendency to define ourselves by our natural traits, but our traits don't really define us.  Since most of our traits are not choices, they can easily change through natural processes, also not our choices, and we often lose sight of who we really are.  Rather, we should define ourselves by our decisions, our hopes, our convictions.  If we change the way we make choices, we can change our identities -- we can change who we are.  If we do so in a healthy way, we are growing into better people.

So, unlike the thought in the song, I say that people can and should change.

Monday, March 31, 2014

To Be Sinless

I think that for a lot of Mormons, there is this ideal of sinlessness to which we aspire.  For example, we want to be one of the 99 sheep that the Good Shepherd doesn't need to go find.  But when we carefully read the scriptures, Christ was talking to the hypocritical Pharisees who considered themselves above consorting with lesser beings.  They consider themselves the 99 who are not lost.  If we think about it, wouldn't we want to be the one that Christ seeks, the one that he saves?

In the Doctrine and Covenants, the instruction to Joseph Smith about the power and authority of the Priesthood does not require sinlessness.  Look rather at what disqualifies someone from the power and authority of the Priesthood: "when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness."

Notice, it doesn't say that you have to be without sin, because then it would be unavailable to anyone but Christ.  Rather, we shouldn't cover our sins.  The Gospel is all about repentance; we need to confess and forsake our sins.  We also need to avoid pride, becoming more humble and patient.  Most of all, we need to have charity towards others rather than exercising dominion in unrighteousness.

To me, it seems that the characteristics that disqualify us from priesthood power are characteristics of rebellion.  We all sin, but sinning is different from rebelling.  A rebellious attitude would encourage covering of sins, is motivated by pride or ambition, and is in the business of compelling or manipulating others to share or legitimize the rebellion.

It's also there in the sacrament prayer.  It doesn't speak of what we do, but what we are willing to do.  We need to be willing to take upon us Christ's name, always remember Him, and keep His commandments.  We all fail at doing these things sometimes, but if we are willing to keep trying and not become rebellious, we can receive great blessings and opportunities.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Why I'm a Member of the Church

When I was a young teen, I knew I was attracted to guys, and not to girls.  It wasn't something that I could question.  I also tended to the intellectual side of things, and asked difficult questions.  I sometimes felt alone and unlovable.  I wonder if all teens don't go through something like this at some point.  Those times drove me to seek out the Lord, and I had some very personal and powerful experiences.  That's why I'm a member of the Church.  Despite my gay orientation, despite my natural skepticism, despite my political views that often differ from a majority of members, I have a strong testimony of the veracity of the Gospel of Christ, and the institution of the Church.

So I usually view new ideas from the starting point of my previous position (as basically everyone does).  This means that I see things from a position that already accepts the Church and its doctrine.  While this can make communication a bit tricky, I try my best to tell my story in a way that others can understand.  I also hope I come across as respectful of others.  If I fail, please forgive my shortcomings.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Church and Politics

President Marion G Romney once recounted the following incident:
One day when President Grant was living, I sat in my office across the street following a general conference. A man came over to see me, an elderly man. He was very upset about what had been said in this conference by some of the Brethren, including myself. I could tell from his speech that he came from a foreign land. After I had quieted him enough so he would listen, I said, ‘Why did you come to America?’ ‘I am here because a prophet of God told me to come.’ ‘Who was the prophet?’ I continued. ‘Wilford Woodruff.’ ‘Do you believe Wilford Woodruff was a prophet of God?’ ‘Yes, sir.’ 
Then came the sixty-four dollar question, ‘Do you believe that Heber J. Grant is a prophet of God?’ His answer, ‘I think he ought to keep his mouth shut about old-age assistance.’
Old-age assistance became known as social security, and as we know, is soon to be one of the biggest financial burdens our government has ever faced.  The leaders of the Church warned us that it was not wise, and stated its position.  Did the Church have that right?  What kind of free speech should the Church have?  The gentleman in this story felt that the Church should not have the right to speak about an issue important to the man himself.  I think the man was wrong.  The Church has often warned of dangers, even when the warning was unpopular.

Many people have complained that the Church should not be allowed to express an opinion about same sex marriage.  I don't see how this is any different from the story above.  Where does it say in the tax law that to have tax free status, you have to give up your right to free speech?  It doesn't.  That's why the Church can and does file legal briefs, issue public announcements, and the like.  Can the prophet speak about things that may be controversial?  Well, they've been doing it all through the scriptures.  I don't expect it to stop now.  Nor will a controversy around the prophet's words shake my testimony.

If there were a proposed law that would increase restrictions on alcohol, the Church might very well support the proposal -- not that it's trying to control people's lives, but that the law seems to be doing something that seems responsible, from the view of the Church.  I can't help but think that the same thing is true of laws in support of traditional straight marriage.

If the laws eventually favor the side the Church didn't support, well that's fine.  The Church isn't trying to control, just make its voice heard.  Nobody is excommunicated for their political views.  But under current policy, you still can't join the Church if you drink alcohol, legal or not.


Friday, March 21, 2014

Logical Fallacies - Slippery Slope

I have lived in areas with freezing rain.  You people who have only experienced Rocky Mountain snow do not know what it's like.  The rain falls, and instantly freezes on anything it touches.  That releases a bit of heat which makes a slick layer of water on the top.  Friction practically goes away.  If you start moving down a slope, there is really no way to stop.  This concept forms the imagery of an interesting logical fallacy, the slippery slope.

It goes something like this.  If I take the following action, I will inevitably continue to take more and more extreme actions, so I should not take the first action.  If you start eating cotton candy, soon you'll be eating it every morning.  After that you'll progress to eating cotton candy for every meal, and become malnourished.  Therefore, you should never eat cotton candy.  In this context, it's pretty clearly a fallacy.

Take the following example:
If we allow gay marriage, where will it stop?  We will move toward allowing polygamous marriages, and perhaps marriages between siblings.  Even parent-child marriages!  Abominations in the gene-pool, and the destruction of the human race as we know it!  So we can't allow gay marriage!
This should be seen as just as ridiculous as the cotton candy example.  Now look at this one:
If we allow anyone to refuse service to a gay customer, where will it stop?  People will start by refusing to take pictures at a gay wedding, and pretty soon gay people won't be able to shop at the supermarket.  We can't let this happen!
The amazing thing to me is that many of the people who readily recognize one of the above examples as clear fallacy often entirely miss that the other one is based on the same logic, and just as unsound.  These fallacies are meant to rile up the masses -- they are a call to arms.  I think we need to stop this kind of verbal warmongering and start actually conversing.  That way we can problem-solve and actually come out better in the end.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

What Makes a Stereotype

What are the stereotypes around gay-oriented males?  Femininity?  A predisposition with fashion and style?  A dislike of manly things like cars, football, or hunting?  Involved in the arts -- particularly performing arts like acting, singing, and the like?  A tendency toward depression and/or suicidal thoughts?

Why are these stereotypes in place?  I'm not really sure, but I have some guesses.  First, I've seen numbers suggesting that a healthy percent of males are gay-oriented, but many of them don't express it to others.  You could say they are "in the closet," but I don't think that adequately expresses their position.  They won't necessarily identify as "closeted gay" at all, but rather that they are attracted to males, yet choose to be straight.  Please don't confuse me.  They don't choose their orientation.  That may not be changeable at all.  Rather, they choose a different identity for themselves.  Someone with incredible talent on the football field can choose to be a non-athlete if they want.  That doesn't affect their inborn strengths, but simply their desires to identify themselves differently.

People who are heavily involved in the performing arts, however, usually need to express a level of vulnerability and sincerity when they perform that makes such chosen identities harder to pull off.  In fact, it may seem dishonest to them to identify themselves as anything but gay.   So, among those who publicly identify as gay, a disproportionately high percentage are involved in performing arts.  Similarly, if there is a mental challenge involved like clinical depression or anxiety, the reflections used in most therapies are likely to make it difficult to identify as something other than gay, especially when their orientation has become entangled with the mental condition.  That would create a disproportionate number of depressed and possibly suicidal people among the gay population.

Not only that, but "gay" and "transgendered" have been confused so often that many traits of one are assumed to be part of the other.

Again, I'm not really sure about these, but I think they would explain many of the stereotypes that persist about gay-oriented males.  In truth, I don't believe in these stereotypes.  I think they are there due to sample bias and misunderstandings, and the real population of gay-oriented males will show no greater propensity for sports, effeminate behavior, the arts, etc. than the population in general.

But I freely admit that I may be wrong.  It's just so hard to get a good representative sample when so many people with gay orientations don't even identify as gay.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Compare and Contrast - Gay vs. Deaf

This one has always really fascinated me.  I happen to have friends who are part of the Deaf culture, yet I'm not deaf.  On the other hand, while my orientation is gay, I don't really interact with anyone who is part of the gay culture.

This parallel is often seen as offensive to both groups.  The similarities are quite remarkable, though.  Many straight-oriented people view a gay orientation as a kind of reproductive disability, but the gay community rejects that view strongly.  Similarly, many hearing people view deafness as a disability, but the Deaf culture strongly rejects that view.  Many people believe their orientation is something they are born with while others feel it is realized later in life.  Many deaf people were born deaf, while others lost their hearing later in life.  In both cases, the culture mainly caters to the former.

A major debate in the Deaf culture deals with cochlear implants.  If a deaf person is treated so that they can hear, is that the overcoming of a disability or is it the loss of part of their core identity?  Is the act of getting a cochlear implant a betrayal of the Deaf culture and heritage?  This sounds like debates surrounding re-orientation therapies that have plagued the homosexual community for years.  It also could be connected to mixed-orientation marriages where a gay person can have their own children with a straight spouse.  Is that a betrayal of their gay community?

Despite all these similarities, there are some clear differences.  First, the Deaf culture uses ASL primarily to communicate.  They have their own language.  The gay community, on the other hand, uses English, and their language does not identify them.  It would be difficult for a deaf person to hide their deafness from hearing people around them, while it is common for people to hide gay orientations from the straight people around them.  These different situations produce very different types of challenges and concerns among the members of each community.  A closeted gay man, for instance, might feel psychological trauma for hiding their feelings from their family and friends, but a deaf man can't hide their deafness, and doesn't experience the same problems.  Rather the deaf man might feel more isolated among the hearing because of the communication barrier, which the gay man doesn't experience.

Differences like these make it dangerous to draw too many conclusions from a comparison between the two groups.  This can be said of any parallels drawn between the gay community and another group of people, yet both sides of the "gay-debate" constantly extrapolate too much from such metaphors.  These comparisons are fine to communicate ideas, but they have no power to prove debated points.  Any relying on these similarities as evidence of some kind is a logical fallacy.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Compare and Contrast - Gay vs. Alcoholism

In my last post, I looked at the common comparison drawn between orientation and race.  This time I'd like to examine another comparison.

"Being gay is like having alcoholism."

First, let's examine the similarities.  Alcoholism is, in some measure, an attraction to drinking.  The thing that people emphasize is that there is a distinct difference between the attraction to drinking and the drinking itself.  In the same way, a homosexual orientation is an attraction, but that can be seen as separate from forming sexual relations with another person of the same gender.  I think this is the main point of the simile for most of the people who use it.

But there are many significant differences.  First, alcoholism is precipitated by drinking alcohol.  On the other hand, at least for most people, orientation is established long before any sexual activity.  That was certainly true in my case.  But many extrapolate using this analogy, and figure that homosexuality is caused by homosexual relationships, which is taking the analogy way too far.

People who abuse alcohol really do have a problem that needs to be addressed.  Similarly, there are certainly those of gay orientation that are addicted to sex.  They also have a problem.  But their orientation is actually not the problem.  Sex addiction is a problem regardless of whether the orientation is straight or gay.  So unlike alcoholism, where the attraction to alcohol fuels the addiction, it's not the orientation that fuels an addiction to sex.

An interesting similarity is the idea that "once and alcoholic, always an alcoholic."  Basically, there are those who believe that alcoholism is something that doesn't go away, you just have to learn to deal with it.  Despite this belief, there are many people who claim to actually be cured of alcoholism, that they no longer have the temptation to over-drink.  Similarly, many people claim (and I'm among them) that a gay orientation is something that can't be "cured."  If your orientation is gay, you have to learn to deal with it.  Yet there are some people who claim that their orientation has changed.

Of course, the big issue that offends some people is that alcoholism, the attraction to drinking, is a disease.  But a gay orientation is not.  Extending this analogy to imply that a gay orientation is a kind of mental disorder is probably the worst use of this analogy.  Please don't fall into this trap.  It's such a common mistake, that this analogy should probably not be used at all, or perhaps only if great care is made to prevent its use in that way.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Compare and Contrast - Gay vs. Race

Last time, I talked about the extrapolation fallacy.  When we draw a comparison, it's always tempting to take it a little further to gain more insight, but that can produce more confusion than insight.  Let's take a look at a popular example.

"Being gay in our culture is like being black in the 50s."

This is a very important and widely used comparison.  It's the basis of labeling people as bigots -- the racists of our day.  There are many similarities.  But there are also many differences, which often get ignored.  Like any analogy, we can learn much from these differences.

The fact that gay individuals have been treated as second class citizens is the obvious similarity, but the scale of the class gap really is not similar at all.  It doesn't take much research to see the decades of Jim Crow laws and such were far more severe and blatant than the discrimination based on orientation.  So while the comparison is apt, we need to temper the reactions.

Another difference is the ability to hide.  There was no don't-ask-don't-tell when it came to race.  This changes the way orientation discrimination has progressed, both in good ways and bad ways.  For instance, the good: I suspect most people are friends with someone who is gay, but they just don't know it.  When the friend comes out to them, this provides opportunities to overcome stereotypes because they are already friends.  On the other hand, the bad: keeping secrets can have emotional consequences like feelings of isolation, higher levels of depression, etc.

A very important similarity is the fact that orientation, at least for most of us, is not something we actively choose, just like race is not something that is chosen.  But there's a remarkable difference.  While race is mostly identified its physical characteristic, people were of the unfortunate belief that there were personality and behavioral differences.  People mistakenly believed that those of African heritage were mentally inferior or some other such nonsense.  On the other hand, orientation is primarily a trait that affects behavior -- sexual and relationship behavior in particular -- but many want to view it as some kind of purely physical attribute, like race.

These kinds of differences confuse the lines of communication, because people tend to forget about the differences and focus only on the similarities, and often take the analogy too far.  This is getting too long, so I'll put other examples in future posts.  This analogy is one used by the "pro-LGTBQ" side, so let's look at one used by the "anti-LGTBQ" side next, alcoholism.


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Logical Fallacies - Extrapolation

As a human being, I communicate by finding comparisons.  I think it is something hardwired into our brains.  Notice how many parables were used in Christ's teachings.  But the problem with any parable is that the comparison only goes so far.  For every similarity, there are also differences.  It's like when my junior high teachers asked me to write a compare-and-contrast paper.  We learn just as much from the differences as we do from the similarities.

The extrapolation fallacy is where some relationship or analogy is drawn, and then that relationship is used beyond the scope of its relevance to draw some conclusion.  For example, we know that a ten-year-old child is about 25% taller than a five-year-old, on average, and a fifteen-year-old child is about 25% taller than a ten-year-old, on average.  If we extrapolate this to older individuals, we might think a 30-year-old was 25% taller than a 25-year-old.  But that conclusion would be an example of the extrapolation fallacy in action.

Whenever someone says that "being gay is like -----", there is probably some relevant connection, some similarity that helps the speaker communicate their meaning.  But when the relationship is extended to imply more about homosexuality than the primary similarity, that is when the extrapolation fallacy is being invoked.  There are so many examples of this from so many different parties, that rather than list them here, I'll split them up among several future posts.

Friday, February 28, 2014

The Afterlife

Let me begin by stating that this post contains a lot of gospel speculation.  In other words, I'm not sure I believe what I'm writing, but it's as clear a picture as my limited view can seem to discern.

In our current culture, people often strongly include their passions and desires as a part of their identities.  Whether we have a passion for football, pride in our career, or desire to view fine art, we use these to define ourselves.  However, these things may not really be part of our eternal identities.  Similarly, some feel the need to define themselves via their sexual orientations.  While that may be an important part of how they view themselves, it may not be true in the eternities.

When Christ was confronted by the Sadducees, who didn't believe in an afterlife, they gave him a puzzle that they figured disproved the afterlife.  According to Hebrew law, if a man died, his brother had to wed the man's widow and raise seed to the deceased man (as opposed to raising seed to himself).  So if seven brothers all kept dying off, so they each had to successively marry the widow of their older brother, who got her as a wife in the afterlife?  Christ's response was interesting.  "When they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven." (1)  I think what he could be saying is that marriage and sexuality are primarily mortal traits, and in general do not continue in the afterlife.

Peter, of course, was given power that whatever he bound on Earth would be bound in heaven, so he could bind a marriage that would last in the afterlife with that authority, but our sexuality could very will be quite different that what we experience here.  And Peter's authority is the key.  That authority rests with the prophets and apostles.  They provide for such marriages in the temples.  Only marriage between a man and woman are allowed to be sealed in this way.  The Church does not want to support legal marriages which (according to our current understanding) cannot progress to be eternal.  I completely understand the stance of the Church.

However, earthly marriages can also be viewed as agreements of comfort and convenience for people today, even if they may not be relationships that will continue in the afterlife.  Is there a problem if laws are written that allow same gender marriages?  I understand that view as well.  Not all earthly marriages will continue after death.

So I give it as my opinion that due to changes in how we experience our sexuality, in the next life marriage will not need to even be a part of existence, except for those whose marriages were sealed by that authority given to Peter and subsequent apostles.  For those who bind up their identity too much with their sexual drives and preferences, the afterlife could be a much greater shock than for those who identify themselves primarily in other ways.  Again, this is a lot of speculation, and so is likely to be wrong.  But it seems to make sense to me at this time.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Believing is Seeing

I recall reading a book by Joseph Campbell that really changed the way I viewed philosophy.  He pointed out that the number 432000 shows up an awful lot in ancient cultures' mythologies, and concluded that there was something very important, cosmologically speaking, about that integer.  He mentioned Babylonian uses, Mayan uses, etc.  But being the nerd that I am, I quickly decided to write the number in base 60, since that's what the Babylonians used.  To the Babylonians, it's just 2000.  It's like a big round number that's roughly half a million.  It's just double the cube of 60.  What's the likelihood of rolling all ones on three rolled dice?  One in 216, exactly half of 432.  (Play creepy music).  But it's all just a made up construct.  There's nothing in the universe that says everything has to be made of powers of 6 and 10.  It's just that humans have developed our numerical language around these things.  It's like the Dilbert Comic:

Dilbert.com

Once my wife and I realized this, we tried it with another number.  We chose a somewhat interesting number (the product of 3 small primes) and started looking for it.  We saw it all over the place.  If we believed that there was something extremely significant to the number, we would have found a ton of evidence for this.  And there's the rub.  If we focus on some pet theory, as we look around at the world around us we will see a ton of supposed evidence for our idea.  I wondered how much of philosophy is based on this.  How much of science is based on preconceived notions that we are simply affirming rather than actually producing real supporting evidence?  It's an easy game to play.

I see people doing this with other things.  When people watch Disney's Frozen, for example, and see Elsa as a metaphor for coming out of the closet as a homosexual, I get where they are coming from.  I saw it, too.  After all, that interpretation has meaning to me, my orientation not being public.  Only I also realized that it could be seen as a metaphor for leaving your family and responsibilities in pursuit of personal pleasure.  In fact, whatever your situation, you could probably draw up a good parallel with the story somewhere.  We humans are very good at that.  We look at the clouds and see forms of, I don't know, a bunny riding a wheeled crocodile, or something like that.  I guarantee that the clouds have nothing to do with that, but we humans see the shapes.  We draw parallels.  We make metaphors where none were intended.  And they help us make sense of the world.  But please be aware that they are not necessarily an intrinsic part of reality.  Rather, they are a way in which our brains interpret and communicate the world around us.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Social Cost of Immorality

I hear a lot from members of the Church about the social cost of sexual immorality -- particularly the cost of homosexual immorality.  The arguments are usually made to refute the fight to legalize gay marriage.  But I worry about the blind spot they seem to exhibit toward heterosexual immorality.  It's not that they think heterosexual immorality is good.  The Church's stance is quite strong, and members usually agree in general.  It's just that they seem to think homosexual immorality is so very much worse than heterosexual immorality.  I think this attitude is usually ignorant bigotry.  People are just reacting to their feelings of distrust of those who they don't understand.  We all somewhat fear the unknown, the other.

When we really look at it, homosexual immorality has less of a social cost than heterosexual immorality.  If a heterosexual couple is irresponsible sexually, there are many possible consequences.  There is always a risk of sexually transmitted diseases.  Certain protection can drastically lower the risk, but can't completely eliminate it.  That is a personal risk that people take, and while there are societal costs, the main people affected are the participants.  But there is also the risk of an unwanted pregnancy.  This complication is not just personal.  There is now another human being involved.  The statistics are there -- the societal costs of children raised without fathers, particularly in neighborhoods full of fatherless families, are well documented.  Statistically speaking, involved fathers are about the largest factor in predicting the academic and societal success of children.

Still, people will quietly shake their heads at teen sex in high school, but lobby loudly against high schoolers who want to start an LGTB awareness club fearing that it will be detrimental to society.  They take their kids to movies that glorify irresponsible heterosexuality, but claim that the evils of those nasty gays will be the end of society as we know it.  It seems to me that irresponsible heterosexuality has far greater societal costs than irresponsible homosexuality.  And since homosexually oriented people form a much smaller percentage of the population, their effects are similarly smaller on society as a whole.

The focus should shift from fighting the homosexual movement to fighting irresponsible sexual behavior regardless of orientation.

(I should note that the official Church doctrine is already more or less written this better way, but many members -- including many leaders -- have it mixed up.)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Gay Football Player

I thought this was a very interesting reaction to a young man entering the NFL draft who came out publicly as gay.  Unfavorable responses from NFL officials prompted a fascinating reaction from a TV news personality.  Here's his report:



First, I absolutely loved his description of the hypocrisy in the NFL, how they are perfectly fine with young men who were involved with rape or even with murder, but coming out as gay would cross a line.  However, I felt he then went on to weaken his argument.  He started to complain about how people who wanted smaller government are also trying to get big government into our bedrooms.  This is terribly detrimental to his point.  It changes the focus from concern for the well being of a real person into a political rant aimed at a fairly unrelated vague political group -- those who promote small government.  It makes him seem like a political ideologue who is just using the young man's situation as a springboard to attack ideological opponents.  His concern for the football player now starts to seem insincere, and it weakens his position.

It's too bad, because his main point was originally done so well and powerfully.  In order to affect change, we have to speak honestly and powerfully.  Keep it focused and real.  Don't tell people what they should think or how the information must be applied.  Just make your point and let people decide for themselves how to interpret it.

Friday, February 14, 2014

No Beards

When I was a student at BYU, the honor code mandated that students could not wear beards (except in a few special circumstances).  I loved it.  I'm sorry to all you beard wearing fellows out there, but I think beards make you look unkempt and unattractive.  I realize that my personal opinions are just that -- personal.  But to my view, a clean shaven man is much better looking than one with facial hair.  I include mustaches and sideburns in this.  I will admit that there are a few guys who do look better with a well trimmed beard or mustache, but they are so few and far between, and I think it's due to familiarity rather than actual looks.

That being said, I hate shaving.  It's a pain and it causes all kinds of headaches.  If I could get away from shaving, that would be great.  But I hate how my face looks with even a little bit of scruff.  Luckily, I don't have sensitive skin.  I can shave dry with a fairly sharp blade, and I'm usually okay.  I often use an electric razor, though, because it's fast and easy.  It's still a bother, though.  One of the many dichotomies in my life.  I have to sacrifice in one aspect to benefit in another.  That seems to be a pattern throughout my experience.  What do you think?

Friday, February 7, 2014

Notice the Difference

I recall many years ago I attended a youth conference where the speaker talked about the proper ways to show affection.  He had ten steps, starting out with "notice the difference."  He claimed that his four-year-old could probably identify who was male and who was female with very few mistakes, but that was not what he was talking about.  Really notice.  Looking back, I didn't really get it.  I kind of knew, intellectually, but since I never was attracted to girls, it never really sank in that the way I felt toward boys was what he was talking about.  It was a bit of bazaar dissonance that I knew very clearly that I was attracted to boys, yet didn't connect the feelings I experienced with the feeling that the speaker was talking about.

I get that a lot through my life.  I was super interested in sciences like biology as a kid, but I was a little dense when it came to reproduction.  I knew the biological concept of gametes, but I knew literally nothing of sex.  When my father talked to me about the birds and bees (I think I was eleven) I was shocked.  How could I have not known something like that?  It really hasn't changed much for me.  I usually fail to notice romantic undertones, even overt ones.  I recall my father telling me when girls were flirting with me.  I really hadn't noticed.  I have gone out to movies with my wife, and she expressed her disappointment in the inferred sex in the film, and I was like "what sex?"  I really don't notice.

Maybe if there were male-male romances in films, I might notice.  But I'm not sure, even then.  The only guys I recognize in films as homosexual are such blatant gay stereotypes, I don't identify with them at all.  I think I'm just a bit obtuse when it comes to some of these romantic social games.

I guess I'm just not really good at noticing the difference.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Love the Sinner

The principle of "love the sinner, hate the sin" is a very good one.  The problem is that since we are all sinners, this should apply to all our interactions.  We should love everyone regardless of any misbehavior.  When we limit it to only one kind of behavior or one group of people, it changes meanings.  It becomes a way to hate the sinner through the sin without acknowledging that we have that hate.

However, it's also easy to overreact.  The fact that people misuse this phrase to excuse hate does not mean that the original principle is a bad one.  We should all show more love for the sinners (that's everyone), but also reject irresponsibility and misbehavior.  That's the principle, and it's still true, even if it's often called upon in a sorry attempt to excuse hate.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Mixed Orientation Dating

Why do people seem to think it is wrong for a gay guy to date girls?  Are we really so utterly ashamed of homosexual orientations that we have to socially keep these lepers away from everyone else but their own kind?  Why do so many people feel that a gay guy dating a straight girl is some kind of dishonest travesty?  Why should we socially pressure gay guys to date other guys?  Why do those who are publicly in mixed orientation marriages get anonymous hate mail?

When it comes to dating, I think the Church has some very good advice.  Youth are encouraged to group date starting at 16 or older.  I don't see how this really should be different for gay oriented youth.  Enjoy your peers' company and learn and grow socially.  I don't think it would be wrong to ask a girl out (on a group date) as a friend.  Just enjoy other's company.  The church also discourages teenagers from steady dating.  Just make friends and have a fun time.  That's what dating should be about for teenagers, and it's the same advice regardless of orientation.  There's a growing body of evidence that earlier serious dating leads to more social problems.  Teens shouldn't be pairing off and exclusively dating only one individual.  It's much healthier to date a variety of people in groups.

When I look back at my teen years, I participated in group dates where it was just a bunch of kids of both genders with nobody pairing up.  These activities were some of the most fun and memorable activities of my life to that point.  When I started college I dated a large number of different girls, and had a lot of fun.  When I returned from my mission, I planned to do the same, but I met this girl, and plans changed.  She was unlike anyone else, male or female, that I'd ever met.

I don't think that dating girls had anything to do with finding my spouse.  We didn't meet by dating.  We met in other ways.  But I love being social, and dating was a very acceptable venue to be social with those of the opposite gender.  So I dated for this purpose.  If a girl was after a romantic relationship, I would be scared.  I was only attracted to guys.  But I don't think dating girls was a betrayal of who I was.  Rather, it was social exercise and development.  All young people need some kind of social exercise and development.

So if you are a teenage boy with a gay orientation, that does not mean that you have to avoid dating girls.  There's nothing wrong with dating girls.  It's good to exercise those social skills.  But if you don't feel comfortable dating girls, that's fine too.  You don't have to.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Narrative for Gay Members?

Christ taught His gospel through narrative.  He took the principles he wished to convey and put them into parables, stories in which the concepts could be better understood and applied.  He taught by example for the very same reason.  Today, the Church leaders teach in much the same way.  Just go over the last general conference and see how many stories were told to illustrate principles of the gospel.

Others teach by narratives, too.  A very popular narrative, for example, is that when you are attracted to someone, you should have a sexual relationship with them.  Watch almost any movie made for teens or adults in the last several decades, and that narrative plays out.  It claims that there are no consequences (or at least very few) to a casual sexual relationship.  Such things come and go with little effect on the participants.  The leaders of the Church counter with an opposing narrative.  They explain that our feelings of attraction for the opposite gender are healthy and essential, but need to be channeled into an eternal relationship in order for us to reach our full potential as children of our Heavenly Father.  Sexual relationships outside of this context serve only to hamper our eternal progress and have dire consequences.  It is a powerful narrative that resonates with most members of the Church.

What we are lacking, though, is a narrative for gay members.  There are plenty of stories dealing with sexual morality, for example, from a heterosexual point of view.  They are there in the scriptures, in conference talks, in stake conferences, in our wards and families.  We are instructed to forgive people, and learn how to repent if we fall victim to inappropriate behaviors.  However, where are the narratives for the homosexual members of the church?  Where are the examples?  Where are the gospel teachings that truly edify and light the way?  Why do they seem to be missing?

I realize that the American cultural definition of sexual orientation has been changing dramatically.  So the way we communicate about these things needs to change with our definitions.  We need examples.  We need leaders.  We need the stories of more faithful members who have gay orientations.  And they need to be broadcast to the whole church, not just some niche that a few gay members will locate.  I don't mean to diminish mormonsandgays.org or Voices of Hope.  They are great resources.  But they operate on the fringe of the Church where many who need them will never find them.  Those who need these stories are not just the gay members.  They are all members.  How can we expect leaders and members to know how to interact with their homosexual brothers and sisters if the Church has not provided any context, any narrative to help them understand?