Sunday, January 10, 2010

Old friends.

First, an update with "8: The Mormon Proposition" at the Sundance Film Festival.

The film has SOLD OUT of tickets, 11 DAYS before going on sale to the general public! This is virtually unprecedented for a documentary at Sundance. It sold out before any of the other documentaries at the festival and before most of the feature films, including the films in competition (which 8TMP is not). Many of us looking forward to seeing it at the festival, but who didn't pre-register to purchase tickets, are now contacting Sundance requesting additional showings to accommodate the overwhelming demand.

What does this mean? Despite whatever your current feelings are about the film, 8TMP is a hotly anticipated documentary and is set on a trajectory that ensures it will see wide release. This film will be seen by many people and will have an effect on the gay marriage debate in upcoming months and years.


I came across a quote of a comment from an anonymous blogger on Sarah's blog Serendipity. It was a comment originally left on this post of her husband's blog Dichotomy. I won't quote her comment because I'm not interested in getting into a fight with her, and I hope to mitigate the chances of her reading this post. But I wanted to relate some of her story as it relates to me.

At the beginning, let me say that I was on the outside of this drama looking in; so what I know is only what I understand and remember from mostly a second-hand perspective. Normally this would cause me to think twice before relating what I know, but her story figures so greatly in my experience and philosophy about being gay and mormon that I think what I have to say has validity. Plus, this is my blog; so if you don't like it, tough.

In essence, her father was a gay man who, for years, was torn between his sexuality and his membership in the church and his marriage. At some point her father contracted HIV and died of AIDS in 2003.

It's unclear to me whether this man went off exploring his sexuality with the consent of his wife or not. But I do know that after he contracted HIV he tried to reenter his life as a faithful, church-going member. Eventually they had to tell the children dad had HIV, but they told them to keep everything secret; supposedly to keep the facade of a normal, active mormon family going. After so many years they couldn't keep it a secret any longer. She continued to live in what must've been (or quickly became) a loveless home with a father slowly dying of AIDS.

It must have been a horrifying childhood. A nightmare on so many levels for her. Among the worry and fear and everything else, what kind of questions would plague a child in that kind of environment? If it would've been better for my parents to never have been together, then what does that mean about me? I wouldn't exist!. What a strange, existential thing for a child to grope with. Yikes.

We were close friends for years. I, at one point, figured she was the best shot I was going to have to get married. Luckily we were always "out of sync" as to our relative interest in each other, and my last push towards marriage was met with rejection. God bless her for doing that.

It was a turning point for me. Shortly thereafter I stopped fighting my sexuality. I eventually started dating men and fell in love with a wonderful guy. We've been together for over two years now and are looking forward to getting married.

Shortly before meeting my fiance, this old friend of mine asked me out to lunch. I agreed. We met, and it was obvious the tables had turned (for her) once again towards me, wondering if there wasn't the possibility of a relationship. I told her I was gay.

She looked very disappointed, cried, and started to talk about her father. How selfish he was. How following his sexuality destroyed his family. How he, before his death, killed other men by infecting them with HIV. How he died alone in his apartment and it was two weeks before anyone found his body. How when they went into his apartment afterwards to collect his personal effects that it smelled of death and rotting.

Before this impassioned plea filled with portends of death and loneliness and destruction, I had tried to talk with her reasonably about her father. She said it was an insult to dane to tell her anything about her father. I tried to tell her about my life, about the new friends I was making but every time I did she started tearing up. She said she had lots of gay friends already, and she got along fine with them. But she never wanted to hear about anything. No names. Nothing about their personal lives.

So faced with that, all I could really do at the time was sit and endure her lecture until the lunch was over. I don't think she intended this, but she basically put an end to our friendship right there.

I took her home. She said to me, before leaving the car, "This will change you."

I remember saying, "Yes, I hope it does."

Considering her life-experience, one can understand how she feels about homosexuality. But it's always bothered me how, to her, a gay man actively pursuing his sexuality always results in destroyed families (including the families that could've been for gay men who never married a woman (how's that for existential!)). Not only that, but death and pretty much everything bad and evil, in her opinion, come from being gay.

This is what I want to say to this person who may or may not be reading this:

Open you eyes. Your father may have been selfish, but that had nothing to do with his homosexuality. Nor does being selfish, or being gay, have anything to do with him dying of AIDS. If my impression of your father is correct, he was more a victim of his religion and society than an active destructor of your family. He lived in a time when his religion actively pushed him to get married to a woman despite his homosexual feelings. When that didn't "fix" him, he did what he did. It was a mistake, but what should he have done; and by extension, what should any accidentally mixed-orientation married couple do? Live life unfulfilled? You espouse that they should, that there are other means of being fulfilled than sexually, that keeping up the trappings of a sexless relationship (or perhaps forcing the sex) is better than divorce. Maybe that is the answer for some, but how easily such advise is espoused by those who aren't constrained by it. And, back to your father, doubly-unfortunate for him, it was during the late 8o's when he probably contracted HIV; a time when it wasn't really common knowledge about how the virus was contracted.

Let me propose an alternate reality for you. Your mother and father divorce much earlier than they did. There are tears, but your mother remarries and is happy (her current situation if I'm not mistaken). Your father meets a man and enters into monogamous, long-term relationship with him. Nobody's dead. Is your dad still gay? Yes. Does everyone have a maximum chance at happiness in this life? Yes.

You need to stop making your dad's selfish and unwise affairs and unlucky life part of your larger understanding of what it is to be gay. Your father could've been straight and the same things would've happened to him. He could have had affairs with women, contracted AIDS, and died just as ignominiously and lonely as he did; all without being a homosexual.

I understand the religious reasons you argue against living an active gay lifestyle. I may even say I respect Mormonism in a larger sense, though I think there's less footing in the doctrine to support your argument than you think there is. Ultimately, I don't want to take away faith. It's a good thing.

But you insult me and yourself when you try to make people fear death and ruin using the memory of your unfortunate father. His was one path, not the path of all gay men. For every tragic story like your father's, there are just as many others with amicable separations, monogamy, and eventual happiness and healing for everyone, including the children. There's no hurt or sadness in this life but what time can heal.

I promise you, every time I come across you using your families story to try to scare people back into the closet, I will call you out on it.