Wednesday, March 07, 2018

There is No Drama Like Closeted Gay Mormon Drama: A Review of Autoboyography, by Christina Lauren

I am a Mormon from pioneer stock. My ancestors crossed the plains with oxen and handcarts, I am Mormon in my ontology, my culture, my history, my assumptions and my worldview.

I am also queer.

Both my Mormonism and my queerness are integral aspects of my identity, one as equally changeable as the other.

Because of this, I am both the best and the worst person to review this book.

Autoboyography, by Christina Lauren, is the story of Tanner and Sebastian. Tanner, a bisexual non-Mormon newly closeted by the ultra-conservative culture of Provo, UT, falls in love with Sebastian, the gay, closeted even to himself, son of a Mormon bishop.

Sebastian, like me, is Mormon. It is ingrained in the way he thinks, the way he responds, the ways he learns to smile to cover his feelings and the way he shuts down or runs away from something he has been conditioned to reject about himself. “Sebastian’s identity isn’t queer,” says Tanner. “It’s not gay. It’s not even soccer player or boyfriend or son. It’s Mormon.”

That rang true.

A lot of this book rang true to me.

A lot of this book made me want to apologize to every person who has ever had to date me. (I am so sorry, y’all. Queer Mormons are an exhausting mess.)

I lost count of the number of the times I wanted to scream and throw my phone (I read this book on my phone) because it had hit a nerve I’d forgotten about.

I could only finish it in the arms of my partner. She held me while I read the last few chapters. I was shaking. She has learned to recognize when I am having Mormon-related trauma. She can see it on my face, often speaking it before I even realize I’m experiencing it. Sometimes she whispers, Fuck the Mormons. Sometimes she whispers, You’re beautiful just the way you are. Most of the time she just holds me.

I imagine someone who isn’t Mormon, particularly someone who isn’t queer, would respond with skepticism to certain parts of this book.

But this book got so much right. And even some of the parts it got wrong? They are important—integral to the purpose and impact of the book.

Things the book got right:

1) The description of BYU.

Tanner says BYU is “a lot of long skirts and modest shirts, straight trimmed hair and genuine smiles.” He is dumfounded when someone playing Frisbee actually says, “Gosh darn it!” And then says “BYU is exactly like I imagined.”

I mean. I laughed. So hard. 

2) When Sebastian says he’s not gay.

How can someone admit to being exclusively interested in boys, but not, as Sebastian says, “Not… that?”

In Mormonism, there is no room for homosexuality in the Plan of Salvation. The highest order of the priesthood, the highest order of salvation, is in heterosexual marriage—the “sealing” for eternity that is meant to provide the template for this life and the next.

While having feelings for the “wrong” gender isn’t overtly considered a sin (don’t get me started on the subtext), “acting on them” is considered one of the gravest sins. The church discipline for being in an active same-sex relationship is the same as it is for attempted murder. Entering a same-sex marriage is considered the highest apostasy, and triggers mandatory excommunication.

I have known since I was a teenage student at BYU that I had an annoying habit of falling in love with women.

It wasn’t until I was in my thirties I was even willing to speak a name to it. 

3) Sebastian’s angst.

Maybe people will find Sebastian’s angst unbelievable.

If anything, I think he didn’t have enough of it.

He was able to speak it, out loud, to Tanner. Even as he said he’d never said it out loud before.

It was only a few years ago I spoke it out loud. I sat in the passenger seat of my friend’s car. We drove out to Utah Lake. It was frozen, a mix of white and brown and grey.

I had been trying to say the words for hours and I hadn’t been able to.

My friend had been teasing me. “It can’t be that bad,” she said. “Did you drink coffee? Did you get drunk? Do you want to have an affair? Please tell me you’re thinking of having an affair, monogamy is so boring.”

I laughed. She was joking (I think). She was a teenager when she was married, only a little younger than I was when I married my husband. We were, all of us, virgins on our respective wedding days. (I had never even been to second base.)

Finally I said, “If I did have an affair… It … would be… with a woman.” It felt like I was spitting the words, trying to get them out. I thought I might choke on them.

I had never said it out loud.

I had fallen in love with woman after woman after woman. And it had never occurred to me to give it a name. I knew it was something you buried. It was something you kept quiet. It was not, ever, something you admitted out loud.

4) The part in the acknowledgements where they talked about “teen after teen who honestly believed, devastatingly, that their parents would probably rather have a dead child than a gay one.”

This is not just something the teens believe. It is something that is true. I have heard so many parents (who may or may not have known whether they had a queer child) explicitly say: It would be easier to have a dead child than a gay child.

I had a friend, a blonde gay boy, maybe 20 years old. He wanted to be a cook and once he cooked me something Japanese that I’ve never had again, though it was one of the best things I’d ever eaten. He told me, “My mom asked me why. Why couldn’t I keep my gayness to myself? When I told her I was suicidal, it was either kill myself or come out, she said, I wish you would have killed yourself.

I told this story to another Mormon mother in horror. She just frowned at me and said, “But it would have been easier.”

Even for queer Mormons with supportive parents, suicidality is a major problem. In most states, suicide rates fell after the legalization of gay marriage. But in Utah the numbers have steadily risen and are now nearly triple what they used to be. The rise—which correlates with the LDS church’s tightening of rhetoric against gay marriage, particularly in the 2008 push for Proposition 8 and the 2015 policy change which bans the children of gay spouses from baptism—prompted the CDC to issue a special report investigating the issue.

The last time I was in Provo, I sat with the mother of a gay Mormon boy who committed suicide. We had both since left the church, and we sat in the bar of the hotel, holding our drinks. She told me about his first kiss. How he was so excited. She told me how long it had been. She told me a lot of things. The silence after she spoke told me more.

I was on the phone with another queer friend once, begging her to drive to the hospital instead of walking into traffic.

Yet another queer friend once told me, “I’m doing OK… by which I mean, I am no longer involuntarily committed… that is the standard that I measure OK by now.”

I could tell literally a hundred of these stories.

I cannot think of a single queer Mormon friend of mine who has not struggled with depression and suicidality.

One of the biggest things that prevents suicidal behavior is human connection and that is the one thing the Mormon church expressly forbids for its queer members.

Most of us leave the church. We decide that it is better to live than to be Mormon. It is harder than people understand to leave the church. It fractures us on the inside. Giving up Mormonism is only slightly less difficult than asking us to not be queer.

But we do not all make that decision.

And far too many of us simply don’t survive.

Things the Book Got Wrong

1) Little Things

Most of the things the book got wrong were little things, really. Orem is many things, but it is not quieter than Provo. It is called The Honor Code, not A Honor Code at BYU. Mission interviews are not with the missionaries. There were several little things like that.

Honestly, I’m more surprised at how much the book got right than how much it got wrong. The authors clearly talked to actual Mormons and did research beyond internet searches. I was most impressed by the subtext they got right. So much of Mormonism happens in the subtext. Mormons are polite, as the authors point out. They do not say the things they think, they are pathologically incapable of being overtly mean. The text conveyed this well. 

 2) Sebastian had not nearly enough fear of getting in trouble at BYU

As a BYU student I was utterly terrified someone would think I was queer. Even being queer was forbidden when I was a student. Today being queer won’t get you in trouble, but doing anything—anything—that could remotely be considered “acting on it” could be grounds for expulsion.

Once, I told my colleague from my current university this. I told her holding hands with another woman would have been enough to get me thrown out of BYU. I had not admitted to anyone that I was not straight. I was in my 30’s, still married to a man at the time. I have a feminine appearance. So when she looked at me, directly in the eyes, and said “That must have been hard for you,” I felt part of my throat close up into a choking near-gasp, feeling utterly exposed.

Incidentally, I did hold hands with a woman at BYU. I was 20. She touched my hair and she held my hand and for days I couldn’t sleep. I was absolutely overcome with panic and shame and horror. No one could know. No one could find out. I rationalized that it hadn’t been… wrong… not exactly. (Neither one of us admitted it was something related to… that.) But I was utterly terrified of what it could mean and I was utterly terrified of being found out.

Sebastian and Tanner do more than hold hands.

He should have been way more freaked out by that. 

3) Sebastian generally has too easy of a time with the physical affection

Doing anything more than kissing before you’re married—even if you are a hetero Mormon couple—is something that would require a lengthy repentance process and a confession to the bishop.

With Sebastian’s background, he came to the conclusion that it was OK faster than I think someone with his background would have.

Here is where I start to become really torn, though.  

Sebastian does address the question of guilt. He prays. He prays and feels peaceful. He says, “I haven’t felt guilty about it […] which is unexpected.” He comes to decide that God approves of his relationship. He says, “Guilt is sort of a sign that I’m doing something wrong […] and when I feel peaceful, I know God approves of what I’m doing.”

As a queer Mormon, I recognized this feeling.

Mormons put a lot of emphasis on gender, on gender roles. But they also emphasize prayer and personal revelation.

When I look at myself, when I look at my partner… I start to get a sense about the eternal nature of gender. I feel like it is more complex and more beautiful than we understand. It is more than a simple binary. And this feels very, very sacred.

Like Sebastian, I have never felt guilty about the fact that I am not straight. I have never felt like I was doing something wrong when my partner touched me. When I pray, I have never gotten the sense, even once, that God wants anything for me other than to have a relationship that makes me happy.

But I have struggled with shame.

I have struggled with the walls-closing-in-on-me sense that my people will never accept this. That they would rather cast me out than accept me in a relationship where I can be the kind of person I was born to be. When Sebastian says, “It feels like I’m pushing through the dark and I know that what’s ahead is safe, but no one is following me there,” I knew what he was talking about.

The first relationship I had with a woman failed for a lot of reasons, but a big one was I couldn’t get past this shame. It became debilitating, overwhelming, and I broke underneath it.

And so… I want queer young Mormons reading this to hear Sebastian’s truth. Even if I can’t fully accept it as 100% believable. Because I want them to understand what Tanner understands: “A God worthy of your eternal love wouldn’t judge for who you love.”

Mormons often try to simplify homosexuality down to a question of sex, libido. It is a perversion, they say. One you can overcome with enough prayer and fasting and faith.

But this is a lie.

Homosexuality is about so much more than sex. It is about bonding. It is how our bodies were built to love.

And I want all the queer kids who read this book to believe this.

Which brings me to the final bit this book got wrong… 

4) The immediate sense of hope

Most queer Mormons do not get beyond their Mormonism the way Sebastian does. At least not while they are still teenagers and not without the support of affirming parents—parents who often have to walk away from the church along with their queer children to give them the hope they need. I have been blessed to meet many such parents working with the Mama Dragons, a group that supports the mothers of Mormon LGBT children. They are remarkable for so many reasons, not the least of which is that they are willing to give up everything for their children. But they are in the minority.

Queer Mormons with families like Sebastian’s go on their missions. They enter their mixed orientation marriages. They do not tell their parents they are gay. They struggle for years with the loneliness and despair that comes from denying such an essential part of themselves.

I personally know dozens of people who underwent “conversion therapy.”

I personally know people who have died.

The reality for most queer Mormons is much bleaker and much more heartbreaking than the hopeful ending of this book makes it seem.

And I loved that.

And so I don’t actually want this part of the book to be different. It may not be accurate. But it is necessary. Because I want young people who read it to know and understand that they are lovely, that happy endings are possible, that there is a way out that does not involve death.

The things this book got “wrong” are part of what makes the book beautiful.

This book was my life, in so many ways.

The geography, the emotion, the self-loathing, the stakes.

I have hiked Y mountain, I have skied on Utah Lake. I taught at BYU for 15 years. My house, in Salt Lake City, has Brigham Young on the deed.

I wish I could have read this book as a teenager.

I wish I could have started to envision a different sort of reality when I was young and so, so, so terrified of my own queerness.

I want every queer Mormon teenager to read this book, to know that hope is a possibility. That even in losing your entire world and half of your identity, there can be joy and there can be beauty.

Friday, February 09, 2018

You dance

When I was a little girl, I started to see a woman when I prayed. 
My eyes were always closed when I saw her, though I wasn’t always kneeling. Sometimes I lay on my back, rigid, corpse-like. Sometimes I lay on my side, fetal and full of yearning. 
My room smelled like humidity and wood the first time I saw her. I remember the frame of my waterbed, covered in my baby sister’s teeth marks. I remember reaching for it, to feel the rough grooves. I remember rocking there in the bed. The water was gentle. Like a cradle. 
I had been praying. 
(I often prayed, especially as a little girl.)
I didn’t mean to make her appear. 
God to me was Father God. He was kind, attentive, but irrevocably male. 
I spoke to him in formal tones, never wavering from the form of prayer taught to me in my primary classes. 
(Sometimes, when I was full of that aching I never understood—sometimes I called him just Father. Sometimes I said “you,” instead of “thee” or “thou.”)
But it was a woman who appeared. 
She kept appearing, even though I never asked her to.
(I don’t know if she would have appeared if I’d asked.)
She was a shadow.
A shape I saw on the back of my right—always my right—eye. 
She was veiled, her face had no features.
But she was, unarguably, a woman. 
I didn’t know if she was the Virgin Mary, or maybe Mother God. I didn’t know who she was. 
I only know she made me feel peace.

When I was very pregnant with my first child, I desperately wanted a woman. 
I didn’t know what to make of it—the desperation. 
It was unformed. Primal. Overpowering. 
I told myself it was something biological, something to do with child birth. Having a woman around would increase survival in my female ancestors. Which would explain it, I told myself. It would explain this overwhelming need. 
I remember pacing in my tiny bathroom. 
I was barefoot, the linoleum smooth against the soles of my feet. 
I was too hot, too cold.
I washed my hands once, twice. 
I pumped the soap, deliberately.
I washed every finger and then
I reached out to dry them on a towel hanging on the wall. I can still remember the rough feel of the terrycloth underneath my fingertips. 
I could see the woman then—or rather an echo of her.
I cried out in the bathroom, holding my too-full belly in my hands.
I must have put on shoes, or gotten a coat. 
It was February and everything was frozen.
All I knew was that… I… needed. 
I didn’t know what. 
I didn’t know who to call or how to get it.
I didn’t know how to pray to a Father God, not about this.
(Father God could never understand this kind of ache.)
It was dark as I drove. 
I drove away. 
My cell phone lost its signal as the lights of the city disappeared. 
I was deep in the desert.
The ground was salt and dirt, nothing grew.
The shadows of the mountains were long in the moonlight. They reflected in the salt water pools. All I could see was shadow and mirror
It was barren.
I wanted to stay until the aching let up, but I couldn’t. 
My contractions got harder and faster and I was alone and smart enough to panic.
So I drove myself home, giving no explanation to my husband when I got there. 

My children were still practically babies when I lost a quarter of my skin. 
Most of it to infection, the rest to prevent a cancer from spreading. 
Once, I was admitted to the burn ICU within minutes of my temperature spiking, just as the infection was entering my bloodstream. 
It had been a woman who sent me there. 
She was my nurse. 
I’d gone for a checkup with my oncologist. I knew I wasn’t healing well. That my graft had failed. That a fetid stench was coming from my wound vac. My doctor had scheduled me for another surgery in a week.
They wheeled me into the office because I couldn’t walk. 
My nurse had never met me. She was new to the office. 
She said hello and then she looked at me. 
I remember the way she looked at me. 
She got quiet.
She took my temperature. It was normal. 
She took my blood pressure. It was normal.
“Something is wrong,” she said. “Something is more wrong than they think.”
There was nothing to indicate she was right. No signs. Nothing that could be marked on a chart. She had instinct, alone.
But she made a phone call and I was taken to the burn unit for a consult. 
Sepsis has a 50% mortality rate. 
And I arrived in the unit minutes before I had any signs of it.

Once, I woke up from surgery screaming. 
The (male) surgeon didn’t believe the chart, with its calculation of how much medication I would need, and so he changed it; he changed it and the nurse taking care of me couldn’t give me anything that wasn’t on the chart. 
I remember I tried not to scream.
Or rather, I remember being outside myself, telling myself not to scream. 
There wasn’t any control. 
There was antiseptic, beeping. I could smell waste and cotton. I wanted to thrash my arms, my legs, but I couldn’t move. I could hardly open my eyes. 
I remember hearing my doctor’s voice when she got there. 
(She ran, they told me. She ran all the way from oncology when she heard my screams on the phone.)
“She is a cancer patient.” She was out of breath. Nearly yelling. “Not a burn patient. The calculation is different.”
I remember seeing her fuzzy form as she held up a syringe, as she put it into my IV. 
Her hand on my face was cool. 
“I’m so sorry,” she was saying. “This won’t happen again. Oh, honey. I am so sorry."

Once I almost died.
(More than once, but this time was different.)
I was unconscious, I knew I wasn’t breathing.
The air around me got cold. 
There were stars and quiet and motion.
I moved through a wind. 
There was a woman waiting for me.
She wasn’t beautiful. I’m not even sure she was human. But she was kind.
She took my hand. 
“Kerry,” she said. “Your mother gave you so many gifts.”
I knew it was true. 
(I did not know if she was my mother, or if she spoke for her.)
She touched my hair. “So do you know what to do?” she asked.
I did not know. 
She smiled at me. “You dance,” she said.  

There is a librarian at school who looks like a woman I kissed. 
She has short hair—I can’t tell if it’s blonde or grey—and wears big, round glasses. She’s small, dwarfed by her computer. She hunches over it, the enormity of her computer screen, or maybe the weight of my memories, making her look fragile. Whenever she sees me she smiles, as if she knows me. (She doesn’t. I think.)
I wasn’t ready to be kissed by a woman. 
I knew it was coming, but I didn’t know how to be ready for it. I didn’t know how to be ready for something I had spent so many years of my life fighting out of my consciousness. 
I didn’t have time to imagine what it would feel like to have her reach out and put her hand on my neck. 
It had been a habit, to shut thoughts like that down.
I could get as far as seeing a hand coming for my face, and I would slam the thought closed, like a book or a door. 
All that would be left was a darkness, its edges red with shame. 
She didn’t ask if she could kiss me, or if she did I can’t rememberIt doesn’t really matter, though. I would have said she could. 
Her voice shook. Her hands shook. She pulled the car off the road. 
I knew she was going to do it and I could have stopped her, but I didn’t have the words—didn’t even understand how I wasn’t ready, or what it would take to be ready
All I knew was that red-tinged darkness. 
I hadn’t been able to let myself imagine a kiss, and part of me thought actually kissing was the only way around it. 
But I wasn’t ready for it. 
I wasn’t ready for the way it made the edges of red grow crimson. I didn’t know how to get past the closing book, the slamming door. 
I was reaching in, reaching through, I should have known hands would get caught in the closing.
When the librarian smiles at me, I still feel the edges of that red shame. 
wonder if I should have said no. I think about what it means that she isn’t in my life anymore. (Can’t be in my life anymore.)
I want to pull the librarian aside—ask her to forgive me. Tell her I didn’t understand how not knowing myself well enough could so thoroughly hurt her.
But, of course, she is not the one I hurt.
And I wonder where is the line between guilt and shame. 

Sometimes I dance in my kitchen. 
I make myself something with vodka in it (I am outside the church now; I am allowed to drink vodka) and I dance in the kitchen.
I’d like to think I look wild. That my dancing is laughter in motion, spinning circles of what it means that my life matters, that I am alive.
I suspect it looks nothing like this. 
I say “suspect,” but I know it doesn’t. My partner videotaped me dating once. My motions were clumsy, like an adolescent giraffe. The joy was evident, but that was its only beauty.
It doesn’t really matter. 
I dance because I am alive.
I dance because she told me to. 
I dance because itisthepoint.

Father God still watches me.
I feel him, hovering on the edges of my mind. Or spirit. Is there a difference? I can’t tell. 
I can’t pray to him. 
To his credit, he seems to understand. 
Go away, I want to tell him. Stop watching me. 
He knows I cannot talk to him. Knows better than me why I can’t. 
She watches me, too. 
In the darkness, I kiss my partner. Her hands hold the edge of my face, her mouth against mine soft. She pulls me to her and I feel…
There aren’t words for what I feel. 
There are only words for what I see.
I see her. In the shadows, behind my right eye. (Always my right eye.)
She is still veiled.
She is still faceless. 
She is still love—the feeling, the being, the presence of it.

She still brings me peace. 

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Thomas Monson, Love, and Biological Fragility

Shortly after he became prophet, I happened to run into Thomas Monson at Little America. He was escorted, with his wife, to the table next to ours, where we were out eating with our family. Frances, his wife, ordered soup and ate it with single minded purpose, not looking up as people came to talk to her husband. At first, I thought of trying to hide my diet coke, but then didn’t. It was so very… Salt Lake City… to run into the prophet at dinner and to worry about my caffeinated beverage.
            But as I watched him talk to people, something changed.
            It was a feeling.
            I couldn’t pinpoint it.
            His words weren’t slurred. He made eye contact. He answered questions. But… something was wrong.
            Something was wrong and I felt it, even if I couldn’t name it.
            Looking back, I think it was the beginning of his illness. I think, from the very beginning, he was losing a bit of who he was.
            For nearly my entire life, I loved Thomas Monson.
            I loved that he preached love. I loved that he said people were more important than problems. I loved the stories he told about being kind. Helping the widows, serving the orphans. I loved that his message was always inclusion and love, never exclusion. He called us to gather together, never to cast out.
            Which was why Proposition 8 was so painful.
            It was a departure.
            It was unkind.
            It was choosing the letter of the law over Christ’s command to love one another.
            When it happened, I remember feeling sick.
            And I remember thinking of that moment, in the Little America, when I had been so excited to see a man I had loved for so long and so struck that… something… was wrong.
            I am a gay Mormon.
            The church’s backing of Proposition 8, the 2015 policy of exclusion, barring the underage children of same-sex spouses from baptism, these represented, for me, the end of my membership in the church.
            I am a Mormon. I will always be a Mormon.
            But, largely because of policies enacted by Thomas Monson, I have been cast out from my people.
            But as a gay Mormon, here is something I know: none of us can escape our biology. We are all subject to the primal forces that cause our cells to cleave, drive our lungs to breathe. We are all fragile creatures, corruptible, imperfect.
            Thomas Monson spent most of his life teaching us that God loves us anyway. Even when we don’t deserve it. Even when we know we are unlovable. God loves us, even when we are broken.
            And all of us are broken.
            It is hard to celebrate someone who is largely responsible for a great deal of my own personal pain.
            But I saw with my own eyes his fragility. I felt with my own spirit that this was not right. I know, with all of my own biological imperfections, that God loves me. That god has never abandoned me.
            And so I am trying to forgive his brokenness. I am trying to remember what he spent the vast majority of his life teaching me: that, in the end, people are more important than problems. That, in the end, God loves us. That, more than any law, we should love each other.
            Love must always be more important.
            Let that lesson be his legacy.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Bodies are creepy and powerful

I am thinking about bodies today. They are eerie and mysterious and they know things and they do things and they affect us in ways we only barely understand.

Last night I had PMS. 

I assume it was PMS. I was lying in my bed, weepy and tired. My lamplight was on, the room smelled vaguely like our puppy--who really needs a bath because damn. I kept trying to think of why I was weepy. What had made me that way? What was wrong? I couldn't settle on anything. But it had been about a month since my last major bout with the weepies. 

I don't really have periods (God bless my Mirena), but ever since seeing Heather became a daily thing, I get PMS. 

I also get sick when she's gone. Within a day of her leaving on her last business trip, I'd lost my voice and found myself shaking in the hot bathtub, cold, coughing, and miserable. Within a day of her getting back, I had my voice again, my throat no longer burned, I felt--and was--better.

Human bodies affect each other. Through touch, through breath, on a molecular level we affect each other. The swings in oxytocin, in estrogen, in the countless other hormones and neurochemicals that swim in our veins, through these, we affect each other. 

We are, all of us, biological creatures. 

We fight that, I think. 

We want to believe we have choice. (I want to believe I have choice.)

But even if I do: my body has an opinion. 

Awhile ago I had to make a choice--decide what to do. I'm not going to talk about that choice here. (I'm not sure I'm ever going to talk about it, to be honest. Though I might. Someday.) What matters is this: I wasn't sure what the right thing was. I wasn't sure at all. But I knew when I thought of the one option--no matter how much I wanted it, no matter how much I thought it was the right one, no matter how much it was what I'd always thought I wanted--whenever I leaned toward it, I would feel sick.  

I am Mormon. 

It's an identity I claim, however much I no longer fit the rigid definition of Mormonism I grew up with because I am queer and I have decided to stop fighting that fact. I am queer. And I am Mormon. And both of those things are part of me. Even the church can't take that away.

I was taught as a child about prayer, about stupor. Discernment. My patriarch told me I had a gift for it. You know the right thing in your mind and your heart. You know the right thing, because you cannot hold the wrong thought in your head. You feel the spirit in your body. 

Truth manifests: in the body. 

Mormons are not big on the "weakness" of flesh. We don't particularly believe that humans are fallen, that mortality is a corrupted state. 

But we do believe in the sanctity of the body. 

My body has taught me things that the Mormons couldn't. 

But the Mormons taught me to trust my body. 

It's only one of a thousand contractions I'm only just beginning to work out. 

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The End of my Secret Page of Doomed Love

I've been following this page on Twitter. It had 3 followers and, like, years of tweets. One-sided conversations. Maybe there was another Twitter account responding, but there were no outside replies, no linked @accounts, posts only responded to themselves. It was, like, this doomed love story. Like watching a broken heart rage and prattle into the void. She posted love songs, she asked how her love was doing. On the top of the page was a thing about how "I will always love you."

Based on the times posted, and the vocabulary used, I think she's based in the U.K.

Tonight she locked the page down. Said Twitter had lost its meaning. That she needed to move on and had to let [him?] go. She posted one last, heartbreaking, song, and then wrote GET OUT GET OUT GET OUT before locking the page.

I'm surprised how gutted I am by this, y'all.


Monday, April 17, 2017

Love makes fools of all of us

Here is what I know of love: it makes fools of all of us.
            We can be perfectly rational creatures. We act with sense, with decorum, with measured steps. That is, we normally act that way. But love: it makes us irrational. We find ourselves doing things. Ridiculous things. We cannot control the way our thoughts ever circle. We cannot control the surge of feelings in our chest, our fingers, our stomach. We cannot stop the torrent of images that dance behind our eyes as we try to sleep.
            Love renders the strongest of us utterly powerless.
            I do not try to excuse what I did.
            For no matter the cause, my actions were still my own.
            I would like to think that if I knew the consequences, I would have done something differently. But that is impossible. We cannot know how things will end. Things that are utterly tangled unweave themselves and work out for the best. And things that feel clean and true can end up staining us deeper than blood.

            One thing is clear to me now, now that everything has passed: I am not sure I would have done anything differently. Even knowing how it would end. Because love is not the elixir of fools because only fools drink it.
            All of us—
            Every blessed one—
            All of us can be lost to it.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

You Cannot Stop Your Body From Screaming

Found this in an old text this morning. It seemed... useful to the day.

What I learned from cancer: you cannot stop your body from screaming.

We have this arrogant idea that how we respond to stuff is a choice. We say to ourselves, "Well, I can't help but feel pain, but I can choose how I respond to it, right?"


When you hurt enough, it does not matter.

There is no choice.

You will scream. 

Meaning: things we think are choices? They are not always choices.

Only God knows the difference--knows where the line is.

The rest of us just have to forgive ourselves.

And the people who hurt us.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

And then I went, "Well. This dream is very unsubtle."

I dreamed that I went back to visit my old BYU colleagues. They'd been relegated to a temporary building--the kind that made up the bulk of my over-crowded elementary school. On the white board in the front of the classroom/office was a quote about "Daughters of Zion."

Lisa Rumsey Harris came up to me, apologetically. "So..." she said. "BYU has this new policy?"

I knew she meant just for the women. (Or maybe just for me.) Because it was a dream and you know stuff like that.

She was holding a chain in her hands. "We're going to have to actually bind your hands. I'm sorry. I won't do it very tight."

I held out my hands for her to bind. "This is so BYU," I said. "It's not like I'm gonna hurt anyone with these. Boys are, like, way more likely to do that. Yunno. Statistically speaking."

Lisa said, "Oh, I hear you. It is ridiculous." She wrapped the chains around my wrists once, twice. Three times. "But, hey," she said. "At least these chains are really cute ones."

I looked down at them. They were cute. They had little sparkly hearts on them.

And then I went, "Well. This dream is very unsubtle."

And I woke up.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

This morning I woke up thinking, "I was having a sex dream..."

and I was super excited cuz I never do, so before I opened my eyes I tried really hard to remember it...

and I did...

but I wasn't having sex.

I was eating a sandwich.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Caterpillars, Hamburgers, and Mayonaise

Something happened in my class today.
Or rather… it didn’t happen.
And it’s not happening… I am haunted by it.

We were discussing our biases. (It’s a rhetoric class. We do that sort of thing.) The class was lively, everyone chiming in with only perfunctory attention to traditional decorum. Hand raising was half assed, at best.
“I have a bias,” someone said, “against caterpillars.”
“Against Caterpillars?” I asked.
“Yes.” She nodded and sat back in her chair. “I love butterflies. But I cannot stand caterpillars.”
I tilted my head in mock shock, “Isn’t that, like, the insect equivalent of hating babies?” I asked.
Someone from the back of the room shouted, “I have a bias against babies!”
There was a gasp of laughing horror at that.
“I will tell my mom everything about my roommate’s love life,” someone said. “But I refuse to tell her about my own.”
“I only like little dogs,” said someone else.
“I don’t even like dogs!”
And then a girl in the front row said, “I am always falling in love with women. I don't ever want to date anyone but women. But I just never like sleeping with them as much as I like sleeping with men.”
“Well,” I responded. “Pretty sure you’re not the only one who’s felt that.” Which made people laugh even harder than they already were.
And then someone said, “I hate hamburgers with mayonnaise. Just hate them. I mean, why even have a burger if you’re going to do that to it?!”
And the game went on.

About five years ago, before we moved to Maryland, when I was at still teaching at BYU, a boy—brown hair, troubled expression, wrinkled T-shirt—said during class, “I think we’re too mean to gay people in this church.”
The initial response from the class was silence. It lasted maybe ten seconds.
And then there were protests. Polite at first. “We love the sinners,” someone said. “We hate the sin.”
But the boy, his face growing ever more troubled, said, “I… I guess I just don’t see the sin.”
At which point the class completely pounced on him.
I don’t even remember what they said.
Stuff about obeying the prophets.
Stuff about right and wrong.
Stuff about morality and purity and chastity.
The carpets had been cleaned that week. I remember the stale smell of still-wet fibers, clinging like a mildew to it all.
Because there was something nearly primal about the way they turned on him. Animals, encircling a threat.
And they literally encircled him.
They turned from all corners of the room, some nearly jumping out of their chairs. Everyone facing him. Everyone talking over each other.
They utterly and completely shut.him.down.
I felt helpless as I watched. Their reaction was so much more violent than I expected. Their speech so little concerned with charity.
They seemed to have absolutely zero awareness that, odds were nearly certain, at least one person in that room was gay.
I stuttered.
I tried to interject.
There was nothing I could think to say.
In my entire teaching career, I have never felt more helpless, more at a loss, more of a failure to my students than I did that day.

And then today happened.

Today: when we talked about caterpillars. We talked about how it was just so hard when you couldn’t decide which gender you preferred to sleep with. And the (non) response?

That hamburgers are so destroyed by mayonnaise.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

And then I go, "Oh. This is an allegory."

The good news: I remembered my dream last night for the first time in forever!

The bad news: It was as judgy as a bad Sunday School lesson.

It started with an earthquake.

But it wasn't, like, a scary earthquake. It was more like a, "Hey! Pay attention!" Earthquake.

And then I looked outside the window & there was this bum who was eating the leaves off our bushes. Then he'd spit out the berries cuz poison. He was obviously hungry.

Then I was all, if I were Christian, I'd feed him.

But he was scary looking so... I just sat there.

But then I did a re-take & was like, *if I were Christian I'd feed him.*

So I drag myself up, go to the door to look for him & invite him in.

But he's gone, and instead there're crowds of hungry people.

And then I go, "Oh. This is an allegory."

And I wake up.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Afternoon conversation

Me: Hey, Lil. How was school?

10yo: Productive. Catherine and I spent some time conducting Scientific Research.

Me: What kind?

10yo: We timed how long it would take to spin in circles, get dizzy, and fall down.

Me: That sounds like two physiological events: first, the onset of dizziness and second the point at which the dizziness resulted in catastrophic loss of balance. How did you separate the two?

10yo: We didn't. It's tricky to tell the start of dizziness, but when you fall, you fall.

Me: So what you're saying is that you favored the objective event over the subjective reporting of one?

10yo: Exactly. I spun for six minutes before I fell down. My head hurt at the end.

Me: That was probably a predictable outcome.

10yo: But worth it. Because Michael only made it five minutes before he fell down.

Me: Impressive.

10yo: Unfortunately, Catherine's dad showed up to take her home before she got to spin.

Me: Well, that's just going to skew your whole dataset.

10yo: I know! It was a very disappointing end of the study.


Sunday, November 20, 2016

Afternoon Conversation

10yo Lily: You know what the problem with this world is?

Me: No, but I'm sure you're going to tell me.

Lily: Gender normative hegemony. That's the problem.

Me: I never should have taught you that phrase.

Lily: Do you know what that means?

Me: I literally just said I taught you what it meant.

Lily: It means that maybe I don't want to have an appropriately girly Halloween costume. Maybe I want to dress up as Thor.

Me: Be honest. You just want that hammer.

Lily: It means that maybe I'm sick of people asking me if I'm going back to work after I have my baby. Maybe I wish they'd ask my husband that.

Me: You realize you're neither pregnant nor do you have a husband, right?

Lily: And don't even get me started about Trump and Hillary.

Me: Please. Please don't get started on that.

Lily: The thing is...

Me: You're right. One day without talking about the election was WAY too much to ask.

Lily: The thing is, people don't even realize that, like, so much of their dislike for Hillary comes down to bias they're not aware of.

Me: You really don't need to have this conversation with me.

Lily: I bet you never thought of that, did you?

Me: Oh for the love.

[& BTW, Lil: yes. Yes I did. ]

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Implicit Gender Bias and Authority

FMH just posted an essay I wrote about implicit bias. I think my sister's post on gene editing still probably wins the "coolest blog post of the month" award. But she works for Mayo, so that's a totally unfair comparison.

Also: my mom is totally not going to believe me when I say my motives are more about discussing the neuro/cognitive effects of bias than politics. But, yunno. Full disclosure: not a Trump fan.