Thursday, December 30, 2010

Reparative Therapy

I've had several discussions recently with MoHos curious about Reparative Therapy. This is a controversial topic, to be sure, with a lot of claims made by all sides about the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of reparative programs, the research supposedly supporting such claims, etc. etc.  Early on in my process of coming out I was actually interested in these kinds of programs, but my Stake President told me flat out not to pursue them, so I never did. Over the years I've talked to people who have tried reparative therapy, but they were always brief commentaries - I've never gotten an in-depth account of their experiences. So I was wondering if any here in the Blogsphere would like to share their first-hand accounts? I'm particularly curious about one called "Journey Into Manhood", which evidently is a week-end type retreat and is very secretive about their process, and even requires you to sign a non-disclosure contract! 

To me, any validity in these programs would have to be the successes they generate. I'm not interested in the claims of those who sponsor the programs, since they have financial motivations. The proof is in the experiences of the participants. So, if you've tried one of these programs, please share your story with us - positive or negative. Enquiring minds want to know.  :)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Magi

I love Christmas stories. One of my favorites is 'The Gift of the Magi', by O. Henry. Although the setting is more than a century old, the message is still endearing, and the sentiment timeless. Enjoy, and Merry Christmas!


THE GIFT OF THE MAGI

by O. Henry

One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies. Pennies saved one and two at a time by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and the butcher until one's cheeks burned with the silent imputation of parsimony that such close dealing implied. Three times Della counted it. One dollar and eighty- seven cents. And the next day would be Christmas.

There was clearly nothing to do but flop down on the shabby little couch and howl. So Della did it. Which instigates the moral reflection that life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating.

While the mistress of the home is gradually subsiding from the first stage to the second, take a look at the home. A furnished flat at $8 per week. It did not exactly beggar description, but it certainly had that word on the lookout for the mendicancy squad.

In the vestibule below was a letter-box into which no letter would go, and an electric button from which no mortal finger could coax a ring. Also appertaining thereunto was a card bearing the name "Mr. James Dillingham Young."

The "Dillingham" had been flung to the breeze during a former period of prosperity when its possessor was being paid $30 per week. Now, when the income was shrunk to $20, though, they were thinking seriously of contracting to a modest and unassuming D. But whenever Mr. James Dillingham Young came home and reached his flat above he was called "Jim" and greatly hugged by Mrs. James Dillingham Young, already introduced to you as Della. Which is all very good.

Della finished her cry and attended to her cheeks with the powder rag. She stood by the window and looked out dully at a gray cat walking a gray fence in a gray backyard. Tomorrow would be Christmas Day, and she had only $1.87 with which to buy Jim a present. She had been saving every penny she could for months, with this result. Twenty dollars a week doesn't go far. Expenses had been greater than she had calculated. They always are. Only $1.87 to buy a present for Jim. Her Jim. Many a happy hour she had spent planning for something nice for him. Something fine and rare and sterling--something just a little bit near to being worthy of the honor of being owned by Jim.

There was a pier-glass between the windows of the room. Perhaps you have seen a pier-glass in an $8 flat. A very thin and very agile person may, by observing his reflection in a rapid sequence of longitudinal strips, obtain a fairly accurate conception of his looks. Della, being slender, had mastered the art.

Suddenly she whirled from the window and stood before the glass. her eyes were shining brilliantly, but her face had lost its color within twenty seconds. Rapidly she pulled down her hair and let it fall to its full length.

Now, there were two possessions of the James Dillingham Youngs in which they both took a mighty pride. One was Jim's gold watch that had been his father's and his grandfather's. The other was Della's hair. Had the queen of Sheba lived in the flat across the airshaft, Della would have let her hair hang out the window some day to dry just to depreciate Her Majesty's jewels and gifts. Had King Solomon been the janitor, with all his treasures piled up in the basement, Jim would have pulled out his watch every time he passed, just to see him pluck at his beard from envy.

So now Della's beautiful hair fell about her rippling and shining like a cascade of brown waters. It reached below her knee and made itself almost a garment for her. And then she did it up again nervously and quickly. Once she faltered for a minute and stood still while a tear or two splashed on the worn red carpet.

On went her old brown jacket; on went her old brown hat. With a whirl of skirts and with the brilliant sparkle still in her eyes, she fluttered out the door and down the stairs to the street.

Where she stopped the sign read: "Mne. Sofronie. Hair Goods of All Kinds." One flight up Della ran, and collected herself, panting. Madame, large, too white, chilly, hardly looked the "Sofronie."

"Will you buy my hair?" asked Della.

"I buy hair," said Madame. "Take yer hat off and let's have a sight at the looks of it."

Down rippled the brown cascade.

"Twenty dollars," said Madame, lifting the mass with a practised hand.

"Give it to me quick," said Della.

Oh, and the next two hours tripped by on rosy wings. Forget the hashed metaphor. She was ransacking the stores for Jim's present.

She found it at last. It surely had been made for Jim and no one else. There was no other like it in any of the stores, and she had turned all of them inside out. It was a platinum fob chain simple and chaste in design, properly proclaiming its value by substance alone and not by meretricious ornamentation--as all good things should do. It was even worthy of The Watch. As soon as she saw it she knew that it must be Jim's. It was like him. Quietness and value--the description applied to both. Twenty-one dollars they took from her for it, and she hurried home with the 87 cents. With that chain on his watch Jim might be properly anxious about the time in any company. Grand as the watch was, he sometimes looked at it on the sly on account of the old leather strap that he used in place of a chain.

When Della reached home her intoxication gave way a little to prudence and reason. She got out her curling irons and lighted the gas and went to work repairing the ravages made by generosity added to love. Which is always a tremendous task, dear friends--a mammoth task.

Within forty minutes her head was covered with tiny, close-lying curls that made her look wonderfully like a truant schoolboy. She looked at her reflection in the mirror long, carefully, and critically.

"If Jim doesn't kill me," she said to herself, "before he takes a second look at me, he'll say I look like a Coney Island chorus girl. But what could I do--oh! what could I do with a dollar and eighty- seven cents?"

At 7 o'clock the coffee was made and the frying-pan was on the back of the stove hot and ready to cook the chops.

Jim was never late. Della doubled the fob chain in her hand and sat on the corner of the table near the door that he always entered. Then she heard his step on the stair away down on the first flight, and she turned white for just a moment. She had a habit for saying little silent prayer about the simplest everyday things, and now she whispered: "Please God, make him think I am still pretty."

The door opened and Jim stepped in and closed it. He looked thin and very serious. Poor fellow, he was only twenty-two--and to be burdened with a family! He needed a new overcoat and he was without gloves.

Jim stopped inside the door, as immovable as a setter at the scent of quail. His eyes were fixed upon Della, and there was an expression in them that she could not read, and it terrified her. It was not anger, nor surprise, nor disapproval, nor horror, nor any of the sentiments that she had been prepared for. He simply stared at her fixedly with that peculiar expression on his face.

Della wriggled off the table and went for him.

"Jim, darling," she cried, "don't look at me that way. I had my hair cut off and sold because I couldn't have lived through Christmas without giving you a present. It'll grow out again--you won't mind, will you? I just had to do it. My hair grows awfully fast. Say `Merry Christmas!' Jim, and let's be happy. You don't know what a nice-- what a beautiful, nice gift I've got for you."

"You've cut off your hair?" asked Jim, laboriously, as if he had not arrived at that patent fact yet even after the hardest mental labor.

"Cut it off and sold it," said Della. "Don't you like me just as well, anyhow? I'm me without my hair, ain't I?"

Jim looked about the room curiously.

"You say your hair is gone?" he said, with an air almost of idiocy.

"You needn't look for it," said Della. "It's sold, I tell you--sold and gone, too. It's Christmas Eve, boy. Be good to me, for it went for you. Maybe the hairs of my head were numbered," she went on with sudden serious sweetness, "but nobody could ever count my love for you. Shall I put the chops on, Jim?"

Out of his trance Jim seemed quickly to wake. He enfolded his Della. For ten seconds let us regard with discreet scrutiny some inconsequential object in the other direction. Eight dollars a week or a million a year--what is the difference? A mathematician or a wit would give you the wrong answer. The magi brought valuable gifts, but that was not among them. This dark assertion will be illuminated later on.

Jim drew a package from his overcoat pocket and threw it upon the table.

"Don't make any mistake, Dell," he said, "about me. I don't think there's anything in the way of a haircut or a shave or a shampoo that could make me like my girl any less. But if you'll unwrap that package you may see why you had me going a while at first."

White fingers and nimble tore at the string and paper. And then an ecstatic scream of joy; and then, alas! a quick feminine change to hysterical tears and wails, necessitating the immediate employment of all the comforting powers of the lord of the flat.


For there lay The Combs--the set of combs, side and back, that Della had worshipped long in a Broadway window. Beautiful combs, pure tortoise shell, with jewelled rims--just the shade to wear in the beautiful vanished hair. They were expensive combs, she knew, and her heart had simply craved and yearned over them without the least hope of possession. And now, they were hers, but the tresses that should have adorned the coveted adornments were gone.

But she hugged them to her bosom, and at length she was able to look up with dim eyes and a smile and say: "My hair grows so fast, Jim!"

And them Della leaped up like a little singed cat and cried, "Oh, oh!"

Jim had not yet seen his beautiful present. She held it out to him eagerly upon her open palm. The dull precious metal seemed to flash with a reflection of her bright and ardent spirit.

"Isn't it a dandy, Jim? I hunted all over town to find it. You'll have to look at the time a hundred times a day now. Give me your watch. I want to see how it looks on it."

 
Instead of obeying, Jim tumbled down on the couch and put his hands under the back of his head and smiled.

"Dell," said he, "let's put our Christmas presents away and keep 'em a while. They're too nice to use just at present. I sold the watch to get the money to buy your combs. And now suppose you put the chops on."

The magi, as you know, were wise men--wonderfully wise men--who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. O all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.

Monday, December 20, 2010

"Don't Ask" Bites the Dust

Thank GOODNESS they have finally overturned the stuipid "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy for our men and women in uniform! That policy always bugged the heck out of me, and even worse was the way gays were treated if they did come out. Hats off to Obama and the politicians who had the sense to end bad policy. Shame on those who stood in the way of it. We'll remember you in the next election...

Interestingly enough the Church has a similar policy about homosexuality. They advise you not to discuss it outside the closed doors of the Bishop's office. In some respects I think this is wise, and in other respects I think it sends the wrong message. My sexual orientation is not and should not be the focus of my life, so in this respect its wise. But at some point we have to get to the point where this type of thing can be discussed openly and without fear. Ignoring it does not make it go away, and in fact may make things worse because it introduces a "stigma" to the subject. I think this is especially true when it comes to talking to Youth about sexuality. They're going to hear about it one way or another, and some of the sources may not be of the best origin. If you want them to hear your point of view, you'd better not be shy about it!

Anyway, here's to progress and the hope for even more! :)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Are We There Yet?

Apronkid penned a very poingnant and though provoking post called "Dear Prophet, Have You Prayed For Me?", and I wanted to elaborate a little on some of my own thoughts on the "dilema" of gays in the Church....

Apronkid said:
I believe in the Gospel of Christ, and the scriptures in which I place my faith are replete with angelic visitations and wondrous visions. I am part of a church that believes that God has revealed and will yet reveal many "great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God." If God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, then He can visit His prophet with angels and visions. Has President Monson asked God about His gay children? Has President Monson prayed for me?

To which I responded:
...Here's another thought to consider. Its one thing to ask, and quite another to recieve the answer. You must be ready to recieve it. Willing to accept it and act upon it. So I ask - is the Church ready to recieve such an answer? As a people are we ready to embrace our gay brothers and sisters? Perhaps the answer will not come until we, as a people, are ready to recieve it.

Let me elaborate on this thought.

There have been instances throughout religious history when the Lord wanted His people to go a certain direction, but the people themselves were not ready or willing to do so. Take Moses and the Israelites as an example. We're all familiar with the story of Moses going up on the mountain to talk to the Lord, and coming back with the 10 commandments. Wrong! That's the way its shown in the movie version, but a careful review of the scriptures will reveal that Moses actually went up on the mountain to recieve the higher laws of God. He was up there a very long time learning all this stuff. In the mean time, the Israelites got impatient and fell back on their old ways - worshiping idols and such - and when Moses came down he reaized the people weren't ready for the full Gospel. So the offer of the full Gospel was withdrawn and in its place the Law of Moses was implemented, which was a simpler law that would prepare the people to recieve the higher law somewhere down the road. The point is - the Lord was willing to GIVE the higher law, but the Israelites were not ready to RECIEVE it.

In many ways I think we're in a similar situation in the Church with the issue of homosexuality. I think some strides are being made to educate and awaken the membership to an awareness and acceptance of gays. Some. But not enough, I fear. As a people, as a Church, we aren't "there" yet. There are too many prejudices that still exist - even among leaders. There are too many misconceptions. Too much condemnation. Not enough compassion, and too much passing judgement. I truly believe the Church will not be ready for the Savior to come until we can embrace, love, nourish and succor ALL of God's children. When the Lord said to "leave the ninety and nine and go after the one", he didn't put on the qualifier "unless they are gay". Yet for many in the Church, I think that qualifier gets silently written into the message. Many of us in the MoHo community have felt the pain and isolation this can cause. This is the kind of thinking and attitude that has to change.

So, does the Prophet pray for us? I like to think he does. But what kind of answer does he get to those prayers? Maybe he's told the people aren't ready for the higher law. Maybe its like the Israelites of old - the Lord is ready to give an answer, but the people themselves aren't ready to recieve it. That makes it hard on us MoHos. We're ready for a change. So instead of sitting here frustrated I've decided to act. I AM PRAYING. Praying for the people to be ready. Praying for hearts to be softened. Praying for the Church to rise up and BE the Church of Jesus Christ - to TRULY be His people. The potential is there. The framework has been built, and the foundations laid. I believe one day we will get there - one day. But we aren't there yet.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Feeder

I love watching the birds. Where I live here in the South is right along the Mississippi Flyway, which is a major migratory route for all kinds of birds. So, depending on the season, I can have many, many bird visitors at my feeder. Its surprising to see how many different kinds there are, actually, and some kinds that normally wouldn't stop at a feeder do so anyway. I guess they see their bird cousins swooping in for a nibble and have to check it out for themselves.

This year I decided to get a new bird feeder. It was quite an expensive one, actually, and one I was hoping would help with a pest many bird lovers have to contend with - squirrels! Yep, those greedy little fur balls can gobble up half the seed in your feeder if they get the chance. So this time I bought what was labeled as a "squirrel-proof" feeder (see pic). The idea is that when something heavy like a squirrel gets on the feeder it causes a little door to slide down over the seed - thus cheating the pesky squirrel out of a meal. We'll come back to that.

So today I woke up to one of the rare but woundrous events people in the South either love or dread - snow! I'm a lover, not a dreader. I just LOVE snow! Its so beautiful and peaceful and, well, snowy! Down here its really pretty when it sticks to things, as all the tree branches get coated just like they had frosting on them. Its a different effect than snow on evergreens, which we have much fewer of. Oaks and Hickories rule here. But one thing about snow is that it makes it really hard for the birds to find food. Most of the time the ground is bare and they can scratch around for seeds and nuts all day long, but a heavy snow like we're getting today covers all that up. First thing this morning I made sure the feeder was well stocked, then I took some time to watch my little bird friends come to dinner. And come they did! It looked like lunch time at the McDonalds drive thru! Birds were lined up by the dozens on tree branches and bushes just waiting for a turn at the feeder.

Now here's what I oberved at the feeder today. Birds have different behaviors and interactions that kind of reminded me of people. Tiny ones, like Gold Finches, Titmice, and Chickadees are relatively well mannered. They zip in, get a seed, and then fly off to a tree branch somewhere to crack the seed and eat it - allowing other birds a turn for their share. They're neat eaters. Sparrows, on the other hand, are like pigs at a trough. They fly in and perch on the feeder and park themselves as they gobble up seed after seed. They attack anyone else who gets near them and hog the whole feeder til they're good and done. Cardinals - the biggest and showiest of the birds, are a park-and-munch kind of bird as well, although much more tolerant of other birds who want a share. Even so, the Cardinal usually gets the feeder to himself, perhaps with a few lightning dashes in-and-out by Chickadees and Titmice for a seed or two. Woodpeckers are completely different. Like Chickadees they take a single seed and then fly off to eat it, but for some strange reason they can't just take any ole seed from the feeder. It has to be just the RIGHT one, and they fling seeds everywhere digging through the tray trying to find that certain one with their name on it! The other birds love this, of course, but it infurates the tar out of me.

So let's get back to this fancy new feeder. Its all based on a mechanism using weight, with the perch as the front part and a steel bar in the back as a counter-weight. Put too much weight on the perch and the little door will swing down and block access to the seed. Sounds brilliant. Simple. Elegant. Fool proof. And it works great.....on birds. Yep, get a flock of hungry sparrows lined up and they'll eventually crowd in so tight that the door swings shut due to their weight. Then they just sit there like nitwits! Finally one will fly off and the door will open back up and the fight will start all over until they crowd in too thick again. And the squirrels? Well, they quickly found a way around the clever mechanism. They grab onto the post that holds the feeder with their back legs and arch over the perch so as not to put any weight on it. They then hold on to the feeder with one paw and use the other to scoop seeds out and munch to their hearts content! Or one squirrel climbs onto the counter-weight in the back while the other one gobbles up food from the front. Then they trade off. So much for squirrel-proof!

I've come to some conclusions about my observations of the feeder today. Birds are dumb. Squirrels are smart. Maybe I'm beginning to like squirrels.....

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Make the Yuletide GAY!

Did you ever see that episode of Will and Grace where Will turns the spare bedroom into a "gift-wrap room"? Well, I'm almost that bad folks!  I love love love the Holidays, and I realized this year I how truly GAY I am when it comes to decorating, present wrapping, shopping, baking, Christmas cards -all of it!! I turn from the guy who does excavation work with a Bobcat in his spare time into something else -  like a Martha Stewart with testicles - seriously! I have closets full of Christmas decorations which are all put up the day after Thanksgiving. My house smells like Christmas from the minute the Thanksgiving dishes are put in the dish washer. I have a list of all the items I'm going to bake this year and have already bought the ingredients. I bought all the Christmas-themed home decorating magazines the minute they hit the shelves, and I did ALL my Christmas shopping before Black Friday. Mainly so I could shop for ME on Black Friday!! How gay is that? If anyone ever suspected I was gay, one trip to my house at Christmas time would leave no doubt in their mind. No doubt!! :)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Obvious??

As human beings we have a concept we hold in our minds of how the world percieves us - our external self-image. For some, this is a complete fantasy, like a guy I knew who thought all women found him attractive. In his case, nothing could have been farther from the truth; yet he consistantly held this perception of himself. It was pretty tragic, actually. Painful to watch, but mildly entertaining at times ;-)

Most of us are a little more well-grounded in our external self-image, and our perceptions are probably closer to reality than my Cassinova friend. Yet we all "distort" that image to some degree by the way we filter the world around us. What's interesting is to see yourself in a video or hear your voice recorded and realize that you don't really sound to others like you sound to yourself. Or that the way you move, laugh, or your expressions don't seem as natural and as "you" as when you see them on video. Its hard to get used to at first. The internal filters are all removed, and you see yourself exactly as others see you.

So the other day I'm talking to my cool Bishop like we often do, and I casually asked him if he ever suspected I was gay before I came out to him a few years ago. Understand that I consider myself a pretty straight-acting guy, with no obvious "gay" external indicators. I had assumed that no one really suspected I was gay. My external self-image is one of "normalcy". Imagine my surprise when he told me he thought I was gay the first time he met me! At the time, he was not yet a member of the Church. He was coming to Church occasionally with his wife, but hadn't even taken the missionary lessons. One day at Church I walked up to talk to his wife about something and also to introduce myself to him. I had one of my friend's kids in tow, which I often do (for some reason kids just flock to me - I can't explain it), and evidently after I had finished talking and walked away, he commented to his wife that he "didn't think Mormons let gay people become members". She immediately started defending me, saying I wasn't gay, I was a member of the Bishopric and I was just single at the time, etc. etc. This conversation continued in the car on the way home from Church, with her defending my "straightness" the whole way!!

This revelation was a bit of a shock to me. Do I really come across to people as gay? Is it that obvious? I wasn't used to the notion that people percieved me as gay, and no one had ever said anything similar to me in the past. I thought it was significant that this was coming from a non-Mormon. Did his experience outside the shelter of the Church give him a better "gaydar" than regular Mormons? Do Mormons just automatically assume the best about people, or do they really suspect something and keep their mouth shut out of politeness? The fact that his wife was defending me makes me think most Mormons don't have the reference points to "connect the dots".

Which brings me to another point - exactly WHAT is it that makes one give an impression of gayness? Off the bat I'm not sure. This would require some serious analysis. Certainly there are those who exhibit what I would call extremely "gay" behavior - the effeminate actions and mannerisms most people stereotype as "gay"; or who dress outlandishly or wear eye makeup, etc. But what about those of us who are in the straight-acting category? What gives us away? What sets off the gaydar? Maybe my fellow MoHos can help me figure this one out...