Category Archives: LGBT

2016 Top 5: Charities doing important work

Continuing my Top 5 recap of 2016, I will highlight 5 of my favorite charities doing awesome work. I donate to them, and hope you will too!

#1 – Affirmation – LGBT Mormons, Families, and Friends

Affirmation is literally a life saver. It has literally saved my life. In my darkest times as I have struggled with the complexities and disappointments of being a gay Mormon, Affirmation has been a shining star. Knowing that there are others like me who have come through the dark times has gone a long way towards keeping me moving forward.

Recently, Affirmation has been expanding its work in Central and South America, where the need is even greater than it is here in the USA. Donating to Affirmation will help move forward this important work.

#2 – Liahona Children’s Foundation

Liahona Children’s Foundation focuses on alleviating malnutrition in LDS families in third-world countries. Most recently, the foundation is serving in 17 countries around the world, helping ensure that the most vulnerable children and familes receive the nutrition and education that will enable them to thrive.

#3 – Oxfam

Oxfam is a global organization focusing on alleviating poverty and injustice.  Oxfam is often on the ground after natural disasters and has been fighting for refugees and other displaced persons. After the horrific images coming out of Syria and Turkey over the last few years, I have been motivated to do something to help. Oxfam has been my charity of choice for disaster relief and immediate relief of poverty on a global scale.

#4 – Growing Hope

On the opposite end of the scale from Oxfam, Growing Hope is a local charity focusing on food security in Ypsilanti and neighboring areas. They help food-insecure families learn about gardening by building out raised bed gardens and providing seedlings. They also run several farmers markets in the Ypsilanti area, making fresh vegetables and fruits more accessible to local residents.

#5 – Equality Michigan / Equality Wyoming

Again, I’m really bad at keeping to only five on my list.  I donate to local organizations fighting for equality for LGBT people. The Great Trans Bathroom Panic of 2016 only highlighted for me the need for more people on the ground advocating for compassion and equality on a local level.

 

Those are my top 5 charitable organizations. Looking over them for patterns, it seems I support organizations that focus on food security, poverty relief, and advocacy for marginalized and LGBT people.

What causes do you support?  I’ve got an extra $100 that I will split between the first 5 charities you mention here or on my Facebook page.

Angels to bear me up

public-domain-images-free-stock-photos-shoes-feet-walking-rocks-creek-1

was walking through a building on my way to the business school for a class, when I noticed a sign for a “National Coming Out Day” workshop. I was surprised when the thought “I should go to that” popped into my head. How could my brain betray me like that? I knew I wasn’t gay.

That was 2005. Here I am, ten years later. And yeah, turns out, I’m gay.

have an amazing capacity for compartmentalization. When I first suspected I was maybe not like the other guys, I was in high school. I remember talking to my bishop and he asked me if I was struggling with same-sex attraction, and I cried and said that I was. We were supposed to meet again to talk about it, but I never set up another appointment. At the time, I thought it was controllable and changeable, and I could do it myself. So I put the episode in a box and set it on a shelf.

Another time, I was harassed in the halls by my classmates. I still don’t know what they knew that I didn’t, or if it was just plain old teenage cruelty. The episode shook me, so I wrote a letter to my seminary teacher, asking for help. I don’t really remember what I said, nor do I recall his response, but I was comforted by it. I knew I wasn’t gay. I knew I’d be ok. And my shelf got another box.

Continue reading Angels to bear me up

Sheep and Goats

I’ve been preparing a lesson for my Primary class, and the text pulled together a lot of the tumultuous feelings I’ve had over the last few weeks and set them to rest.

The lesson is the parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:31-46). In the end, the Lord says at his coming, the nations will be divided Sheep to the Right hand, Goats to the left hand.

What got to me was the sorting criteria. There was only one.

On the right hand – those who were kind to others, those who fed the hungry, those who visited the sick. In other words, those who upheld the baptismal covenant to “stand with those who stand in need of comfort, to mourn with those that mourn.”

On the left – those who did not.

There was no talk of any other commandment. No other set of rules, no other set of things to do or do not.

Just to love, to stand with, to uphold the least of those among us. That’s what sets the sheep on the right from the goats on the left.

This has long been the bedrock of my personal faith. In the end, I don’t know a lot of things, but I know that what it takes from me is an added measure of kindness, an extra dose of empathy. That’s what I hang my gospel hopes on, and I’m hoping that my fellow Latter-day Saints do the same this day and always.

A Constantly Renewed Stream

This is the text of a talk I gave in my ward (Ann Arbor 2nd) on February 15, 2015.

I would like to explore one of the concepts from President Eyring’s October talk on the subject of continuing revelation [1], and share with you some of my experiences as I have sought revelation.

President Eyring said “We need revelation from God. And we will need not just one revelation in a time of stress, but we need a constantly renewed stream. We need not just one flash of light and comfort, but we need the continuing blessing of communication with God.” [2]

Today, I would like to focus on that concept of a “constantly renewed stream” of revelation. Continue reading A Constantly Renewed Stream

2014 Christmas letter

I suppose it is traditional to write a Christmas letter and enclose it with my Christmas cards.  I have failed to do that for the last several years. It feels presumptuous to me, I guess. I don’t really know. Maybe in the age of Facebook, I don’t feel like the Christmas update is as necessary.

There is some value in introspection though, so I’ll give it a shot.

Dear Friends and Family-

Well, can you believe it? We managed that annual trip around the sun once again.  I hope this season finds you all in good health and high spirits.  Just remember, winter is coming. 😉

This year has been a good one for me, I think.  A lot of things have come to completion, which is nice, and I have probably grown a lot too. Continue reading 2014 Christmas letter

Starting with Why: A Path to Authenticity as an LGBT Mormon

(This is the text of the TED-style talk I shared at  “This is the Place” Affirmation International Conference 2014. I don’t yet know if there is video of the event, and I haven’t rerecorded it yet.)

Like many of you, I enjoy cooking and baking.  As you learn to cook, you go through several stages of growth.  At first, you follow simple recipes, you lock onto the basics.  Over time you progress, learning new and different techniques.  At some point, you realize that the skills you have learned are all parts of a toolbox that you can pull out and use as the situation requires. You no longer have to slavishly follow a recipe, and you can begin to improvise and experiment with techniques, flavors and ingredients that fit your taste.  The day that I realized I knew enough to not be bound by a recipe, that I had a cooking toolbox available, was one of the most liberating of my life.

Today, I would like to introduce a framework that has been just as liberating for me in my experience as a gay Mormon as the day that I learned that I could adjust a recipe to my taste. Continue reading Starting with Why: A Path to Authenticity as an LGBT Mormon

The Wrong Side of the River- My Experience at Nauvoo

About a month ago, I took a quick roadtrip from my home in Southeast Michigan to Nauvoo, Illinois for a weekend retreat hosted by Affirmation. I plugged the address “Main Street, Nauvoo, Illinois” into Google Maps on my phone,  and off I went.

I suspected when I entered Iowa that I wasn’t quite on track, but I figured that Google Maps knew where I wanted to go, so I followed the course it laid out for me.  I soon found myself on the western banks of the Mississippi River, headed south.  I figured that there must be a bridge or something that would get me to Nauvoo faster than having stayed on the east banks.

Boy was I wrong.

It turns out that, for reasons unknown, Google Maps thinks that “Main Street, Nauvoo, Illinois” is co-located with “Main Street, Montrose, Iowa.”

Temple in the Distance
Nauvoo Temple in the Distance

As I was pulling into Montrose, I could see Nauvoo across the river.  I quickly recalibrated my phone with my actual desired destination, and as I headed out I realized that if this wasn’t a great metaphor, then Dieter F. Uchtdorf has never flown an airplane.

I have found that sometimes life takes me in directions that I don’t anticipate.  From a vantage point I did not anticipate, I end up looking at my desired destination across a gulf or a river or a gap I didn’t mean to put between me and my goal.

I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing.  Actually, having my retreat weekend begin on the wrong side of the river gave me some excellent perspective. I got to see the Nauvoo temple the way that the Saints would have seen it as they completed that first step of their no-turning-back journey.  Being afforded that view, when we later discussed the reasons we serve and  the things that sustain us, I felt a stronger kinship with the families who lined up on Parley Street and left their beautiful Nauvoo behind. I could imagine those lingering glances over their shoulders as they began their migration westward.

After I got myself oriented and found the nearest bridge, I also enjoyed a beautiful riverside drive that I would have missed if I had not taken a wrong turn.  (It was also very fun to drive that winding road!) I was reminded that even when my life detours in unexpected ways, I can always find some joy in there somewhere.

Tulips at Nauvoo
Tulips at Nauvoo
Redbud Tree
Redbud Tree

The remainder of the weekend was a refreshing journey. I was shy, but  I did make some connections with others on similar paths as mine.  Together, we looked across the metaphoric river that stands between where we find ourselves and the destinations where our lives may have originally taken us.

We discussed the revelations received by Joseph the prophet while in Nauvoo.  In D&C section 127, he commented that “deep water is what I am wont to swim in. It all has become a second nature to me; and I feel… to glory in tribulation.”  This became a secondary theme for us that weekend.  Life as LGBT Mormons and their allies isn’t easy swimming, but like Joseph, we gloried in our tribulations.

We also pondered how the early saints built Zion among them and how we might do the same. I took a few minutes during our free time to meditate at the site of the original temple stone quarry.  I find peace in old sites where there had once been furious activity but now sit silent and off the beaten path.

Quary at Nauvoo
Quary at Nauvoo
Temple Close
Temple Up Close

In the evening, we gathered in the Red Brick Store’s upper room. Among the speakers there, Carol Lynn Pearson shared a story about one of Emma Hale Smith’s final interactions with her husband, the Prophet Joseph Smith.  On the day that Joseph was to go to Carthage Jail, Emma felt the need for a blessing. With all of the goings on, Joseph didn’t feel he had the time so he told her to write out the best blessing that she could think of, and that he would sign in on his return.   Emma did just that.  She wrote it out, but because of Joseph’s death, it was never signed.  It is beautiful though.  Emma desired wisdom, strength, and the ability to understand the will of God, things I think we all desire.  (Read the whole thing here: http://www.the-exponent.com/emmas-blessing/)

Our weekend ended with a story sharing testimony style meeting in the Seventies Hall. It was a comforting to hear and be with so many Saints who desire the best things in life, to live a full, authentic life, who may have found themselves on the other side of a river they didn’t anticipate.  I left feeling uplifted, braver than before, and believing that I could find my way forward, just as the Saints did as they left Illinois for a place of peace.