Friday, October 30, 2009

Getting Back to When Things Were Good

The past couple weeks have seemed notably difficult for me. My depression seems to be worse than usual, perhaps because of the changing season shortening the day. I have also seen a great amount of hateful reaction to the release of the trailer for 8: The Mormon Proposition. At first I thought I might catalog what I've seen, and argued with, from people. I've had some very strong reactions to what people have posted. Just a week ago I became enraged at what one man wrote in an argument we had on Facebook over the trailer for 8:TMP. My anger was white hot and took over (almost) all of my ability to reason. I wanted to physically beat up someone--anyone, even children. Luckily I only spent a few minute sobbing and slammed a couple doors.

I have decided to cut myself off from much of the media I have been exposing myself to over the past couple years. I have hidden and ignored a large number of Facebook friends who tend to post political/religious links and comments. I no longer watch Rachel Maddow or Keith Olbermann. I leave the room when my roommate turns on NPR. I am avoiding almost all media outlets. Even The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, which I have allowed myself to still watch, may eventually be cut. My constitution is just not made to handle the stresses of staying informed in our culture of negative media.

What I do need to do is get back to where I was when things were good. The last time I really felt like my life was on the right track was back in 2005. I was seriously working on maintaining my spirituality and felt closely connected with God. It has been a growing realization, but today seemed particularly poignant in realizing how much I have let my spirituality slip and how I no longer feel very connected with the Savior in my life. As I have merely thought about plans to work on getting back somewhat to where I was, a calm has returned to part of me I realize has been missing now for some time. Part of me even considered trying to attend LDS church meetings, but perhaps with the social/political climate that exists in the aftermath of Proposition 8 would be too much. I hope that bridge hasn't been completely burned.

I truly fear sometimes I may become like the people I run into all too often who carry so much hatred for the LDS church and faith. I have my criticisms of how the church has behaved as an institution, and I even openly question and challenge some of what the General Authorities say and teach. However, that doesn't negate what I have gained from being a member of the church. It doubt it will ever cease to amaze me how following what I learned in church--having faith, prayer, listening to the Holy Ghost--is what has enabled me to be comfortable in my sexuality. The anger and hatred are so toxic to me and destroy the peace and comfort I found.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

8: The Mormon Proposition Gets Online

Reed Cowan's documentary, 8: The Mormon Propositon, has launched its official website and released its first trailer.

Cowan has submitted the film to the Sundance Film Festival, and others. I, and many others, are very excited and hopeful to see this film get out.

I wrote about my feelings just before the launch of the website for Cowan to share:

This past February I took the opportunity to interview with Reed Cowan for his documentary 8: The Mormon Proposition. As production has progressed and the release of the film draws closer I am very happy to be part of this work. I am excited to see my voice have an opportunity to spread out to the world, even if only a couple lines, and hopefully have an impact on shaping the lives and discussion of those trying to find reconciliation between their spirituality and sexuality.

I am also nervous about the backlash I know will happen. I am a sensitive soul, and it is difficult for me to face the anger and hatred of those who will invariably attack this work and my involvement in it. But I am willing to deal with the pain. I find strength to do what I believe is right in the message the Lord gave Joseph Smith, Jr., in Liberty Jail:

"And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good. (D&C 122:7)"

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I Am Angry At and Conflicted With LDS and LGBT Socities

I find myself spending another sleepless night feeling conflicted. Over the past couple weeks, since LDS General Conference, I have been trying to write an entry about my feelings of alienation from both LDS and LGBT societies. My block: not being willing to fully face the deep issues I have with each side at the same time and trying to be too objective/unemotional in my writing. And so, my warning: I will be very blunt and honest about my feelings each way. Some offensive, adult language will be used.

On Monday, October 5, a Facebook friend wrote an open letter to Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in regards to Elder Oaks's talk during the Saturday evening session of the 179th Semiannual General Conference. Some excerpts from the letter:

... I was deeply offended by your speech during the LDS church’s General Conference this past weekend. In this speech you told parents of LGBT children that it is alright to withhold love from a child who wants to embrace their true selves as a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered person. ... What type of message is it when a man who people are taught is a prophet tells them they are undeserving of their parents love and acceptance just because of the way they were born? ...

I am a proud member of the LGBT community in Utah. ... Mr. Oaks we can only hope to undo the damage that you do to others by so casually saying things that have no bearing on you but effect the entire future of others’ lives.

Apparently not one to lose momentum with the LGBT community, Elder Oaks gave a talk at BYU-Idaho not twenty-four hours ago that has released another wave of vitriol. Some samples from Facebook friends:

  • I assume that the nature of the talk was not so much to tackle the issue of the impingment [sic] of religious freedom, but more to justify and explain why the Church is being seen in a negative light. He had the audacity to compare the backlash against the members of the Church to the oppression of blacks in the Civil Rights Era. That's right, he's comparing the members to the oppressees, not the oppressors. The wolf is in the sheeps [sic] clothing and is bleating in alarm because it now has a bad image.

  • You'd think the LDS Church would stop shooting itself in the foot. Go back to gospels teaching (sic), instead of whining at the pulpit. Good one Oaks!

  • what a lying piece of shit. He is the playground bully and he has lied, hidden expenditures, hidden his agenda, financed it all ... and now claims the church is the victim??? I call BULLSHIT!!!

As I said, I am conflicted. As a gay man I want to fight for civil rights, protections, and responsibilities for LGBT people. I want to scream BULLSHIT!!! at Elder Oaks and any others who have the audacity to say they are completely in the right on the issues. I want to see everyone who joined and/or supported the religious coalition the LDS church joined to pass Prop 8 held accountable for the lies, misdirections, fear mongering, and all the other ways they ignored facts, reason, and logic to push their beliefs. I am so disgusted by the hypocrisy of those claiming the moral high ground and "authority" I am physically ill. (For the sake of some brevity I will not re-catalog the LDS church's sins of hypocrisy on these issues at this time.) If I believed it would help I would shout from the rooftops, violently beat people's faces into concrete, and even, as Mahatma Gandhi writes, "I would destroy that system today, if I had the power. I would use the most deadly weapons, if I believed that they would destroy it" ("Man and Machine"). But violence and destruction do not improve the situation; such actions would only make mine the greater sin.

And here I come to the issues I have with LGBT society and culture, or what I call the "media popular" versions there of. I am weary of the anger and vitriol that flows so freely. As a man of faith, and especially coming from an LDS faith tradition, I often feel at great odds with the LGBT community. I have constantly faced and endured criticism and hatred for just identifying as LDS, wearing a CTR ring, or finding any bit of an idea from LDS scripture or literature that I agree with.

Case in point, Elder Oaks's talk from the Saturday evening session of the 179th Semiannual General Conference. Taken by itself, I found the talk to be very appropriate and not containing what I have seen many accusing Elder Oaks of saying. (At the same time, given what he has said and done in other places Elder Oaks has come close to saying or somehow endorsing what people have accused him of.) At the basic root of the talk I found much to agree with Elder Oaks, particularly in regards to my issues with LGBT society and culture. It saddens me when I look around and see so many people going down a self-destructive path. It disturbs me even more when so many justify it to themselves and others by saying "God loves me." Every time I have gone to a church where LGBT people are welcome it feels hollow and more of an ego stroking session than sincere spirituality as the minister harps on and on about God loving gays. Yes, God loves us, but that doesn't mean He is handing out free rides to eternity. In my personal spiritual quest to reconcile my spirituality and sexuality one of the great messages I received from the Spirit was that while God accepts my sexuality and it is best for me to seek a male partner I don't have carte blanche on sexual behavior: I do not believe casual sexual hook ups are healthy, mentally or physically; I do not believe the way to find a boyfriend is to sleep around until I find a guy who wants to have sex with me more than once; I do not believe constant sexual innuendo is a healthy form of speaking about sex and sexuality--I believe it is the opposite extreme of treating sexual discussions as an absolute taboo. I am tired of trying to date, only to be required to wade through seas of men only looking for their next sexual escapade. I am tired of being expected to condone self-destructive behavior. I am tired of the bitchiness, the riotous lifestyles, and anger I am expected to immerse myself in.

I am tired.

So, I am left in a limbo, the space between worlds. I am both and neither, a complex entity. Occasionally, I hear a voice or a hand is extended for a moment. At the end of the day, however, it is only me and God in this place.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Open Letter In Thanks to Keith Olbermann for His Special Comment on Health Care

Dear Keith Olbermann,

I feel deeply impressed to write to you and let you know how grateful I am for your program long special comment on health care. I have cried all evening thinking of your personal experiences of dealing with your father's illness and the pain of those left to suffer because of the failings of the current medical system. Being one of the latter, I am particularly moved by the passion of your care and concern for others and your willingness to put your resources to affecting real reform for the better.

I have lived my entire life with chronic clinical depression. Although I have been able to receive good care with medications and counseling I often am still left in a debilitated condition by it as neither my family or myself have been able to afford the time and money to monitor and treat my condition to the extent it sometimes requires. It has even been difficult when I was able to have medical coverage from my employer. The past two years have been especially difficult as my depression was severely exacerbated by the development of a hypothyroid condition. I was rendered so unable to function I had to withdraw from school, have been unable to work, and even ended up in the Emergency Room due to suicidal feelings. To add another mark against the current system, I waited in the ER for over four hours to speak to a Crisis Worker only to be turned away with no assistance as I was not yet actively engaged in harming myself or others and still being billed over five hundred dollars. Despite the severity of my condition I tried, unsuccessfully and with what felt like Herculean effort, to find work so I could take care of my needs. Having gone from full-time student to simply unemployed has left me only financially able to barely cover the most basic needs of my condition--or I should say left me dependent on the meager financial assistance my family has been able to provide me. Even the hypothyroid condition went undetected for over a year and a half. I have been lucky, somewhat, to receive assistance from some charitable and community programs. I am trying to receive Medicaid, but being a man with no dependents leaves me in a difficult position where I have spent nearly three months of paperwork trying to prove my condition is serious enough to warrant receiving any care.

Over the past months I have watch the coverage of the protests by "deathers" and other people who have abandoned reason and moral sensibility over the issue of health care reform. I have been dismayed at the lengths and levels the insurance industry lobbyists have gone over this issue. I am disturbed by the way many members of Congress have gone about opposing reform holding capitalism and corporate profits over the well being of American citizens. It may go without saying, the levels of deception, hysteria, and incivility in recent political rhetoric has left me despairing that I will have an opportunity for full proper care of my condition and realize my full potential as a contributing member of society, instead of just settling for basic treatment that only leaves me just on this side of the divide between sanity and self-destruction.

Again, thank you, Keith, for your work. Although what you often report on your show upsets me, your passion to see the world a better place for everyone, publicly call out the charlatans influencing our social systems, and speak truth to insanity gives me hope for the future.

Ryan Hollist

Friday, October 2, 2009

Worst Sporsmanship Ever Over 2016 Olympic Bid

Tonight on the Rachel Maddow Show conservative reactions to the news of Chicago loosing the bid for the 2016 games were covered.

Whether or not people think having the Olympic games is a benefit for the host city and nation, I think this kind of reaction is very, very bad sportsmanship. Were it possible to separate this from political partisanship, I would consider this very bad patriotism as well. But this is obviously a reaction of partisanship and the broken nature of these conservative groups. This cheering over the failure of Chicago to be picked as the 2016 host city is not about Chicago, or the Olympic games. This is a spin on the "failure" of President Obama to win the Olympics. Again, the merits and facts of the situation, the inevitable randomness and lack of control on events that is life will be used by these groups to say Obama is an unfit President and a failure as a leader. This entire week has been a constant bash against the President for even deciding to go to Copenhagen, even if for only less than a day. I have heard nothing but constant snarky comments about how the Olympics are a problem for the host countries, and therefore it is bad for President Obama to try to get the Olympics. Of course now that Chicago didn't get it, Obama is a bad President for failing to convince the Olympic committee to vote for us.

I honestly find the conservative attitude and method these days appalling. It is like trying to debate with conspiracy theorists: Fact A and Fact not-A both confirm their theory, no matter how absurd. I also find it disturbing that the side who constantly preach about "patriotism" and treat those who disagree as "un-American," "terrorists," and/or "traitors" have taken the tactic, as one commenter put it, "They would rather see the country fail than admit defeat."