Loving a Beast is Normal 

Beauty and the Beast won’t get my money!! Disney, how could you ruin such a great story of implied beastiality with a sideline gay character!!!

Or at least that’s how the uproar over this latest appearance of homosexuality in a major production appears to me.

I mean sure the beast magically becomes human after the girl sees he’s really a good person on the inside, but doesn’t that same metaphor apply to seeing a gay person for who they are on the inside too?

The irony of this great example of cognitive dissonance in religion vs reality is about as high as I’ve ever seen it.

Next time someone goes off on Beauty and the Beast over the implications that being gay is ok, point out the homosexuality is implied no more than the beastiality was long before it made it to the big screen… Girls don’t fall in love with animals (beasts) every day you know!

Maybe the real point of this timeless tale is we should stop judging people by how they look… or the bodies they have! Seems like a good idea don’t you think ?

 

We All Bleed The Same, Love vs Hate

Acceptance strikes a cord

Last night I had a chance to hear this song in person:

Acceptance… The message struck me at my core. It is exactly what I feel deep inside. It connects with me. I felt lucky to be there and experience it live. I also suffered many levels of irony which is how the Fridge touches me and inspires these posts. 😉

Levels of irony

The first level was the fact I wasn’t quite in my own skin at this event. I couldn’t be entirely myself, I couldn’t openly declare my lack of faith. Fear of the results of doing so kept me from taking that leap. I was me… just not entirely me if that makes any sense. Living in the Morridor of Utah, you take notice how people that aren’t of the main religion are treated. You see what opportunities are lost to those that would openly counter the faith’s views.

Irony hit me again as I did a little research on Alex Boye and found out like me he also has a Mormon background. Yeah I know you are wondering what rock I have been living under the last decade right? I’m sure I’d heard this, but not having him on my playlist till now I wasn’t sure if he was a member or not.

Love each other, stop the hate

I felt the next level of irony when I watched the video above the next morning. In it there are some really awesome concepts, loving not hating, and a clear message that he includes the LGBT community in that concept. It kind of made me wonder just how much of the LDS history and the current stance of the church he is aware of. A little more research turned up this video where Alex describes why he believes in the Mormon faith. The following bit of his talk stood out to me:

“being a member for me started out … a lot less about the facts, a lot less about what was in the scriptures, a lot less about what certain things meant, and certain books and the content. It was about the fact there were principles in it that could…keep my family name above board so to speak”

Cherry picking is ok

I have found I get along best with the faithful that don’t take every scripture to heart, that only care about the good stuff in the holy book. Good people have always cherry picked the best parts of the religion as a point of focus in my opinion. Often I discover that they don’t ever dig really deep in the history or the ‘facts’ as Alex puts it. I get that and have no issue with it. From the believing perspective they have a tool to improve their lives. From my point of view I see a person that would be good, kind and just even without a religion to follow. To me their faith is like dumbo’s feather, a talisman of zero actual merit and yet somehow containing the power to focus works, beliefs and efforts on good things.

This concept has often been a topic of Fridgy goodness and is close to my heart. I think that’s why his song resonated deeply with me. In the past I would have called it a spiritual witness as I sat there pondering why I feared being openly apostate amongst my fellow men. Maybe it’s because I don’t feel accepted when scriptures decry the non-believer as the anti-christ. Like in the case of Korihor worthy of imprisonment without cause eventually leading to his death by trampling of those that pity him.

The final irony

Alex’s video implies the importance of accepting gay people that in my believing days I thought were damaging families with their desire to marry the one that they loved. Something that today I see as their right to be protected. I simply can’t imagine a loving father who would deny them that right in this life or the next.  I just don’t believe a decent God would inspire policies excluding LGBT people. Not when he is the one making them that way!

For me the final irony struck as I pontificated on this post. It’s how this very religion that is loved so dearly by such a prominent member not that long ago would have denied him and his wife the right to an eternal life. Why? Well for the same reason that they deny those who are LGBT the same right today. Because God said so:

“Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so” -Brigham Young

 
I hope that one day I will have more courage to be myself, especially my apostate self amongst family, coworkers and friends. We need people like Alex to inspire us to accept each other. People like Jane Manning who buck the status quo, and instead pressing forward, leading against divisive dogma that seems to insidiously insert itself into our politics and faith at every turn.

Calling attention to something wrong isn’t hate

I truly believe in love not hate. I feel lots of love towards Mormons, they are still my people even though I no longer believe. It is part of my history that becoming LDS meant following a different path than all the rest. If only I could help those that feel like I’m hating on the church as I leave it realize isn’t the case at all. To me, I am loving the underdog that is getting the short end of the stick. Kind of like how past LDS people like Dr Lowery Nelson were speaking up and saying this is wrong. We are better than this. 

Love wins

Just look at it this way. If being black and preventing your marriage to a white person so many years ago was just a prophetic screw up. Isn’t is possible that here and now the same mistake is going on right before our eyes? Could not questioning these revelations now rather than decades later prevent some of these LGBT teen suicides? This is a faith that dictates a persons worth. I think is it reasonable to doubt if that faith leads to death. Please accept that. I honestly don’t mind if you know the facts and still believe. I really don’t, it is fine by me. My only desire in exposing them is to give everyone the opportunity to know and chose with full disclosure.

Because, well because I never got that chance and somewhere out there someone is hurting, believing they aren’t good enough for the celestial kingdom and considering drastic measures. I think they have the right to consider all the facts before believing in a father in heaven that would make them Gay and then deny them being with the person they love.

I desire you know one thing though. Believer or not gay or straight, we shall sup together and care for one another. I believe that truth needs no religion to make it worth doing. Or the words that pricked my heart last night:

 

I’m so glad that we are different

Nobody can be like you

To thy own self be true

Just be yourself

Don’t be afraid

Just come as you are

love each other, stop the hate

 

 

Mormon… And Gay?

I get a lot of people who just don’t understand how a gay person could be Mormon. When I talk about the discrimination that members of the LGBT community face within the church, many are simply baffled. Why stay in a church that so obviously hates you? Why put up with the crap? So, here’s how this works:

While there are plenty of people who convert to Mormonism and join the church in their adult years, the vast majority of the membership numbers are coming from those “born in the covenant”. That means your parents are Mormons and you get the wonderful blessing of being born into a family already sealed in the temple. It means you get to grow up with Primary. Yes, Primary. A lovely little class where you sing songs like “I Am a Child of God”, “Follow the Prophet”, and “I Hope They Call Me On a Mission”. You get to practice giving talks and prayers, memorize the Articles of Faith, and learn all about how lucky you are to get to grow up with “The Truth” that nobody else has.

As you grow up with this Primary, you’re given a CTR Ring to remind you to always “choose the right”. You’re taught about how the world is in a fallen state and how as a member of the “One True Church”, you’ll be expected to be “in the world, but not of the world” and be a “light” to everyone around you. A wall is put in place early, as you are taught to distrust everything that doesn’t come from church sources. Only the prophets have the truth. Only by following the prophets will you be able to be happy. Only by staying on the “straight and narrow path” will you get into heaven and be able to be with your family for all eternity.

See, family is a very central theme to the Mormon faith. To Mormons, God is quite literally their Father in Heaven. We were all there with Him, His children, before coming to this earth. We even chose our earthly families, as spirits, before we were born. We were sent to earth to get a body and to complete a special earthly mission designed just for us, and our family was designed “perfectly” with a father, a mother, brothers, and sisters to help us along the way. This family is joined together through a sealing ceremony performed in the temples and it is only by remaining worthy of a temple recommend that the family remains together after death.

According to the Mormon faith, we were created MALE and FEMALE as spirits before receiving our bodies, and our gender is divinely connected to our earthly mission. The roles we were meant to play were determined by our gender, and the sacred bond of marriage between a MAN and a WOMAN is the key to the highest degree of glory in God’s heavenly kingdom.

These concepts are taught very early. In Primary. Through songs, games, interactive roleplay activities, and through active participation in teaching peers these basic roles and concepts. At eight years old, children are “blessed” with the opportunity to “choose” baptism and commit themselves to the church. This is considered the “age of accountability”, where you are now entirely responsible for all your actions and all your “sins” starts counting against you.

Gender roles are further enforced once you turn twelve and separate into the Young Men and Young Women classes. The Young Men bear the Holy Priesthood, participate in the blessing and administering of the sacrament, get God’s power to bless and heal, attend Scout meetings, and are prepared for their roles as leaders and heads of households within the church. The Young Women are endowed with the blessing of… motherhood, and they are prepared to be housemakers, homemakers, and helpmeets to their future husbands.

And ALL the youth receive very explicit instructions concerning sexual activity. Chastity until marriage is the rule, and anything that causes even a hint of arousal is forbidden. Young men (AND women) who struggle with masturbation are counseled to meet with their bishops and discuss their sexual sins and seek help in bridling their passions and repenting of their sins. All youth activities in which young men and young women mingle are heavily supervised and regulated to prevent “temptations”. Despite the hard stamp of disapproval on tom-foolery, the youth are still known to transgress, as who can really expect perfection?

The young women bear the brunt of the responsibility for any youthful indiscretions. They are expected to maintain modesty so as to prevent their bodies from enticing the young men. They are taught that the loss of their virginity is comparable to becoming like a licked cupcake or a chewed piece of gum. Rape victims are expected to repent and forgive their rapists. And if a couple engages in sexual activity out of wedlock? The woman becomes pregnant? Abortion is off the table. Adoption? Maybe. But the standard advice is to hurry up and wed so that the baby can have a “healthy family” to grow up in and so that the couple can avoid continued sinful behavior.

And homosexuality? The Mormon church won’t even use the term. Instead, they prefer “same-sex attraction”.

They list it among the sexual temptations that “some” are challenged with, but God designed every individual’s temptations specifically for them. Such are hardships meant to aid in spiritual growth and learning, and the rejection of these temptations is what keeps an individual on course for eternal happiness. If you feel same-sex attraction, it is what God knew you needed for your own personal growth and He endowed you with the skills and attributes you would need to be able to overcome it.

A young child, growing up in this church, who finds themselves feeling attracted to members of the same sex will quickly bury and repress those feelings. Confessing it to peers would be a cultural death sentence. Confessing it to family often leads to getting disowned and tossed out onto the streets. Confessing it to a bishop leads to regular intrusive meetings where your sexual desires and preferences are discussed and attempted to be “cured”. Many will never tell anyone. They won’t even admit it to themselves. Instead they bury it. Deep, deep inside.

Now if you live outside Utah, you interact more with peers and individuals outside the church, maybe you have a more laid-back family and regular church attendance isn’t all that important, you likely aren’t getting the full blow of brainwashing and indoctrination. You aren’t feeling the brunt of the peer pressure and isolation. Maybe, rejecting the church teachings for personal happiness isn’t too difficult. Or perhaps you’re just naturally a rebellious sort. You’re somewhat immune to parental, peer, and community pressures to conform and fit in. You see through the bullshit easily and have little trouble letting it all go, leaving a ruckus in your wake.

For those who find themselves deeply entrenched, though, it’s a very different story. When you grow up in the Mormon church, being Mormon is a huge part of your personal identity. So when your personal identity also includes being gay… you are faced with a major internal conflict as these two pieces of your self war with one another. Many attempt to find consolidation, accepting that they are gay while still maintaining their faith in the Mormon church. These get hit the hardest, as they must constantly struggle with cognitive dissonance and their gay identity is attacked at every angle. If they opt to marry a member of the same sex, they get excommunicated and any children they have are barred from baptism. Other options are a heterosexual marriage, celibacy, or compartmentalization – having a secret gay life apart from their Mormon life.

So how can someone be Mormon AND gay? Because they were raised Mormon. Just picture, if you will, going through this Primary, going through this youth program, being surrounded by your Mormon peers who are competing amongst one another to be the most faithful, being surrounded by Mormon family. And if you live in Utah, add in Mormon controlled media outlets and businesses, Mormon newspapers, Mormon television channels… Church is your life – there are church activities every DAY. If you’re in Salt Lake, you have a massive temple in your backyard to remind you of the expectations. And in the layer of isolation and distrust for any information coming from non-Mormon sources… Now you have a cult. And that can be very… very hard to escape.

On Dreams and Reconciliation

I don’t dream very often, but when I do it provides a very clear picture of my emotional state. Worries and fears that plague my subconscious make their way into dream land, and via sleep I become consciously aware of those problems.

For example – when I fled my abusive relationship, I found myself in a state of hyper-vigilance. For several months, I kept having dreams where my abuser would just “show up” in seemingly benign situations, interacting with the people around me. Everyone seemed unaware of the problem his presence presented or how it was causing me to go rigid with fear. I’d try to leave, and he would keep following me. In my dream, I’d be constantly looking around corners and finding him there. I just couldn’t escape, and I’d wake up with my heart racing.

Clearly, my dreams were feeding off my fears of being found by my abuser. Those dreams ended with a blast when I was able to ensure a sense of safety and security for myself. In the last dream of the series, he came to my home. When he knocked on my door, I pulled out a shotgun and sat waiting on the other side. When I refused to let him in, he forced the door open, and I pulled the trigger. No more bad dreams.


I’ve recently had another very telling dream which has brought me to a reflection on my path of self-acceptance; a path which has included a departure from religion and a recognition of my LGBT identity. There’s a whole story building up to this dream; a story worth telling.

As a Young Woman in the Mormon church, I believed it was my duty to reach out to my non-member peers and invite them to attend church activities. I believed that this inviting was a sign of true friendship and compassion, as I was sharing the truth of the gospel with them and providing them with an opportunity to experience the blessings promised by the church. So when I found myself forming a friendship with a butch lesbian struggling with anger management issues who’d shared with me her story of having been molested by her father, the first thing I thought to do was to invite her to church, thinking it would help her.

She accepted my invitation and she clearly enjoyed coming to the activities. She also extended an invitation to me in return, to attend one of her church meetings with her (which I did) and then to see a movie with her. When we went to the movie, she wanted to hold my hand, and I realized she saw the outing as a date. I told her that while she was most certainly my friend and I enjoyed her company, I was not interested in dating women. She was okay with that and kept coming to church.

However, rather than participating in what had been planned, she opted to “hang out” in the gym, play basketball, and interact with the Young Men doing their scouting activities. Several of the Young Women started following her lead, and the Young Women’s President perceived my friend as a threat to her “flock”. She asked the bishop to speak with her, and so the bishop took her into his office and instructed her to adjust her dress and manner before coming back to any activities. My friend told me about what had transpired in the office, told me that she wasn’t interested in a church that wouldn’t accept her for who she was, and we parted ways.


For many years after, this experience has plagued me. It was the first time I’d seen church members (church LEADERS) behave in a way I considered to be un-Christlike. I was deeply hurt, seeing my friend turn away from what I considered to be the only thing that would bring her true happiness, because of the way my church leaders had treated her. The experience also opened my eyes to other faults in members of the church and even in church teachings and history, especially as it relates to the LGBT community. I was stubbornly obedient and naive though, and it took me many more years of uncovering problems to bring my illusion of truth crumbling down.

Even deeper than my disillusionment with the church, however, was my own buried and repressed sexuality. My experience with this friend has stuck with me after all these years, because it became linked not only to the first time my trust in the church had been broken but to my very own identity. I never dated anyone as a teen. I just wasn’t interested. Or at least that’s what I told myself. Looking back, I realize now that part of why this situation affected me so deeply was because I WAS interested in this individual as MORE than a friend. I just couldn’t admit it to myself while mired in the teachings that gender was a divine trait that had been predetermined and could not be “mistaken” or “mismatched”, and that interest in those of the same sex was a Satanic temptation meant to lead individuals astray from the straight and narrow path of eternal happiness.

It took rejecting these “truths” to FINALLY be able to start exploring who I was on the inside and what my interests and preferences actually entailed. I started internalizing EVERYTHING and really thinking about every belief that I’d accepted as truth without evidence. I slowly started realizing that much of my unhappiness and poor relationship decisions could be tied to a failure to accept and follow my own inner feelings and desires. I’d been pursuing relationships with men because that was what was expected of me, not because I had any actual interest in men, and I’d long considered my lack of interest to be a problem. I thought I was somehow broken inside and in need of fixing.

Then there were the other issues – how in my dreams I typically saw myself as male. I kept picturing myself in the roles of my favorite heroes like Spiderman, Robin Hood, and Han Solo. I never wanted to do anything feminine, despised dresses, make-up, shaving, etc, and fit in better with the guys than I did with the girls. My parents said I was a tom-boy, which was explanation enough to satisfy me while growing up, but when I cast aside the Mormon-centered concept of divine gender, I started questioning everything.

In the past couple years, I’ve been treading a journey of self-acceptance that could never have started without first rejecting the religion of my birth. As that journey has progressed, and as I’ve opened myself up to expressing the “me” I’d repressed for so long, I’ve been becoming happier and happier. I’m less stressed, less guilt-ridden, more confident, and even more outgoing. As I’ve been becoming comfortable with my identity, I’ve been starting to share it with others and “come out”. Shortly before my dream, I attended my very first LGBT event, a major step forward in being open about my authentic self.


The dream that put me on this path of reflection was really very brief and simple. In the dream, I was able to reconnect with this old high school friend in a surprise encounter. I recognized her, but she didn’t recognize me, so I shared with her everything I remembered about our brief friendship, and I told her about how her refusal to participate in a church that would not accept her had stuck with me for all these years. I told her about my own journey and how I’d slowly come to realize what a wonderful example of courage, confidence, and self-acceptance she had provided for me. We hugged, we cried, and we wound up dating.

When I woke, it struck me as odd that I would dream about this individual, but I realized that it was a dream of reconciliation. This dream was a sign that I had finally come to terms with my past and that I am now ready to embrace my path forward.

My journey is not all that unlike what many LGBT individuals born into the Mormon church find themselves going through. While the world is becoming more accepting as science shows that gender identity and sexual orientation have genetic and developmental foundations that cannot be altered or “cured”, the Mormons remain intolerant, even going so far as to exclude the children of LGBT couples from the ordinance of baptism. They still teach that gender is of divine origin and that “same-sex-attraction” is a temptation not to be acted upon. Affiliation with LGBT friendly groups renders one unworthy of their temple recommend, and anyone “struggling” is counseled to speak with their bishop.

The Mormon church has a long history of repression, suppression, and oppression of anyone who doesn’t fit their hetero-normative lifestyle. From political involvement to attempted conversion therapies, they have systematically treated homosexuality and trans-sexuality like a disease to be eradicated. As long as churches like this remain, there will always be those who spend lifetimes questioning and repressing their sexuality rather than accepting their unique identity and pursuing a life of happiness. While I have found my own sense of inner peace, I yearn for the day that journeys such as mine are no longer necessary and everyone can have the strength and confidence of my high-school friend in rejecting oppressive teachings and cultures.

The Worth of a Life

If you are religious, then you likely believe that a soul continues to live for eternity. Whether it’s heaven and hell, reincarnation, or the energy of the universe, you believe that life… never really ends. But what if you’re wrong? What if, when someone dies, that really is the end? How easy it is for a light to be snuffed out. There one moment, and the next… poof. Gone.

I don’t think believers really understand what it means to grieve as an atheist. I don’t think they understand how much it hurts. I don’t think they understand the horror in response to acts of violence.

How can they understand?

They think there is no end.

Well, that’s all well and fine, for you. But there is no evidence that a soul even exists. There is no evidence that anything continues on after death. There is no evidence of any of it. If there were, you wouldn’t need faith. All you have is your belief.

If that belief gives you comfort, fine. If that belief helps you cope, fine. But atheists don’t share your belief, and it is no comfort to be told that you are praying for the welfare of a soul that likely doesn’t even exist. Someone DIED. They’re gone. They’re not coming back. Their life ENDED.

They will no longer experience the joys and pains of this world. They will no longer experience love. All those life plans cut short. No more college. No more marriage. No more family. No more children. No more career struggles. No more parties. No more protests. No more movies. No more art. No more stories. No more traveling. No more… no more… No. More… life…

To take a life, to pull the plug on someone’s journey, is to take away something that can NEVER be returned. And no amount of praying can make that better. No amount of hope. No amount of faith. Because they’re GONE.

There is no comfort, no solace, to those who mourn such loss.

And so, as you find comfort in your beliefs, I hope you also take some time to mourn. Consider what has been lost. Consider the debt that never can be repaid. And I hope that you will do something to help prevent more unnecessary loss. I hope that you will care enough to offer more than just platitudes. I hope that you will be there for those who are suffering, and that you will help with action. Not just words. Because a life is worth far more than a few moments of “thoughts and prayers”.

The Shame of Being Good Looking

Elder Bendar of my old faith recently helped me realize why I have struggled so much with the LDS faith. He pointed out the difficulties of homosexual members that don’t actually exist in the church and compared them to something I immediately connected with. The difficulties of being ridiculously good looking! In case you missed it. This is what he said:

“Would it be a challenge to be very beautiful or very handsome, and in the world in which we live, never develop deep character because we are able to open doors and have success just because of our physical appearance? And we become shallow and superficial in many aspects of our lives.”

Knowing that my good looks have made it hard for me to look myself in the mirror every morning has really helped me a lot. I can get up now and feel completely accepted by those lucky plain people by knowing just like those with same sex attraction that I too have a place in the church!

Today I realized that just like people with different color skin, that my beautiful face doesn’t define me. In the way LDS black people of old weren’t really born that way but given a trial to overcome as they endevored to make their skins white. I only need to make continuous effort each day to overcome my tendancy to be so good looking.  

I now know if I simply endure this inborn attractiveness to the end and strive to be plain and unbecoming that I too can be worthy of all God has to offer! 

This is such a comforting thought. It reminds me of when I was young and jealous of the burden my Lamanite brethren had to bear and how prophets promised them they would be blessed for their trials:

“The day of the Lamanites is nigh. For years they have been growing delightsome, and they are now becoming white and delightsome, as they were promised (2 Ne. 30:6). In this picture of the twenty Lamanite missionaries, fifteen of the twenty were as light as Anglos; five were darker but equally delightsome. The children in the home placement program in Utah are often lighter than their brothers and sisters in the hogans on the reservation.”

The prophet Kimball was so right! There were no ‘black’ people in the church! Only various shades of God’s children striving to be white!!

The truth that those that are gay will one day be made straight as modern day prophets like Bednar have so recently promised gives me hope that this difficult curse of handsomeness I have been blessed to bear in this life will be eventually removed as I find my place amongst God’s homely chosen ones. 

Thank Fridge.