Monday, February 27, 2017

It's My Party & I'll Pee Where I Want To

During my Junior year in high school, I was the editor of my school’s yearbook.  As is tradition with yearbooks, our school held the superlatives in which a lesbian couple won “Cutest Couple” by a landslide.  It never crossed my mind that anyone could conceive a problem with this, and not because I too was/am gay, but because I am a human being. 
I remember sitting down and having conversations with a group of adults in the school district discussing how to handle the petitions parents were making over the yearbook and what to do regarding the issue at hand.  I remember there being one day in which I was kept in a conference room so that the news media could not ask me about the yearbook and I feel ashamed that the end decision resulted in handing out stickers with our yearbooks so parents could cover the faces of these two girls. #2005forthefail

While that may have been 12 years ago and a few laws have changed, the mentality of so many have yet to catch up.  Recently, the newly appointed POTUS has kept us all on the edge of our seats as changes have been made right and left.  On Wednesday, February 22nd, he withdrew the Obama-era protections for transgender students in schools that let them use bathrooms corresponding with their identity.  Stepping away from these protections is a stance in and of itself and is already causing ripple effects.  One view point the President continues to make towards issues in the LGBTQ world are that the states should handle them.  The idea that my civil rights should be determined based on which state I live in is a complete smack in the face to it being the year 2017.  I personally never voted for Obama but I have to say I’m grateful for what he did for the LGBTQ community.  Under his reign as President, “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” ended, he condemned conversion therapy, aids help was strengthened and marriage equality became a reality.  The concept that each state gets to determine which rights i’m privy to is disheartening.  Imagine if women’s rights or black’s rights were up for state to state discussion. Or for those of you who happen to be straight and need a little more understanding, imagine if it was up for debate within each state whether or not you got to be legally bound to your family.  You may be husband and wife in Michigan but in Utah you just get to pretend for the sake of pretending. (Have fun doing your taxes!)
On a side note with all of this bathroom nonsense, I want you to really think about something here and I'm going to make bullet points to emphasize what I am saying. 
  • No matter the sexual preferences of the attendees of any restroom, no one should be making unwanted advances towards another and if this is happening to you I would hope you are reporting this. 
  • If this sort of thinking is the actual issue then shouldn't my being gay entitle me to be using the women's restroom so someone of the same sex doesn't look at me or I them? 
  • Being transgender deals with your gender identity, not your sexuality.  This means that just because someone may be transgender - it does not mean they are attracted to the same sex.  
  • More United States Senators have been arrested for sexual misconduct in bathrooms than transgender individuals. #Notalternativefacts

In response to Trump’s decision to back out of the fight for the rights of transgender kids across America, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (along with 6 other religions) joined in support of the President’s change (please pause here for my dramatic and long sigh). For a religion trying to paint a picture that they are supportive, they certainly like to go back and forth on things. In March of 2015 the church made the news for proposing a bill that was anti-discrimination for housing and employment.  This was announced as a memorable and historic day for the church and their stance on LGBTQ members.  So basically the church agrees that we should be able to have jobs and houses and everyone should still love their LGBTQ family members but we are still apostates who shouldn’t have families, we shouldn’t be granted the ability to marry, our kids can’t get baptized and now the T in LGBTQ shouldn’t even be able to pee where they feel comfortable.  (But its OK because as long as they claim to love us … they can still sleep easy knowing they get to go to the Celestial Kingdom) 
I struggle every time the church decides to take a political stance.  Not only does this thinking contradict the need for separation between church and state but it hinders the progress of civil rights in the land of the free.  I am obligated to respect that they have their own views on many topics but they are a church and that is very different from them being the government.  I understand that in the state of Utah they might as well be two in the same but that is perhaps why they continue to get away with making political stances without having to deal with the tax consequences that should follow.  In this world there are over 4,200 religions.  With such a large number of differentiating beliefs, how chaotic would it be if they all started telling the government how to do their job?  For example; Hindus don’t eat beef, Muslims don’t eat pork, Buddhists are vegetarians and Mormons believe in moderation in all things.  So who should win in that debate if all religions start demanding that THEIR way be THE way?  
At the end of the day, I wish these men would stop hiding behind their religions to make choices based on their own arrogance and start taking accountability that these are their personal feelings and dare I say insecurities. Instead, what ends up happening is a problematic and unfortunate series of circumstances from making people think God hates them for being who they are.  It is not God who is against their lives; it is the men who do not understand the lifestyles.  This is an extremely dangerous game of cause and effect for it instigates depression, doubt, fear and way too many cases lead to suicide.  When did religion stop being about how to teach your followers to live in a world of diversity and start being about condescending upon the lives of others so your followers are more comfortable in their judgments? Please remember dear Bible goers that we learn in the book of Matthew that we are judged based on how we judge others.  Diminishing diversity does not mean it goes away.  It only means we are a weaker nation for not finding a better way to utilize the strength these individuals can bring to the table.  Any minority or any person that has had to fight against the mold, has a strength within them this country could surely use. This country is divided and our marriage to it is being tested for better and worse.  Those who seek equality must continue to raise the bar (a term the LDS church is more than familiar with). 

I was so proud to be an American – not on January 20th, but on January 21st when millions of protesters took to the streets all over this country to show that they will not be silenced. It was amazing to see this country come together like that.  My journey is my own, as is the case for all of us, but I look forward to a time when we can look beyond putting stickers in our yearbooks to cover people’s faces for who they are.  I look forward to a time when kids won’t have to come out to their families but instead they can grow up in an environment that allows them to feel safe no matter their sexuality or gender association.  I look forward to a time when the USA stops acting as if this is something that can be shushed or looked over and sent to the states for decision. Since being an out and gay man, I have felt a responsibility to make sure my family and friends are more compassionate and understanding towards the LGBTQ community.  For most of them, I was the first gay man they knew and it gave them a reason to begin to TRY to understand why so many things like this matter. I am so proud of how far some of these people have come.  Now that I have their support we form an even stronger and even more diverse unit.  If every family were to grow closer and more united in these instances, think of how strong this new and modern “community” could become.  It would be one that fights for each other’s rights and embraces diversity. No matter your race, gender, sexuality or beliefs, we would all find a way to stand together and find strength from within.  This group could then continue the fight and make sure that we are all given equal rights throughout this nation, which IS under God and SHOULD be indivisible with liberty and justice for all. Now THAT would surely be a way to make America great again. (And no one would even have to wear that awful red hat!)