Saturday, June 29, 2013

Epilogue: A Message From Space

One year and two days ago, Clark and I moved in together. Yesterday, Clark moved out. We stopped dating five and a half months ago, but neither of us could afford to rent the house on our own so we stayed on as housemates until the end of our contract. This arrangement was actually a lot more difficult than I'd expected it to be. I had lived with FoxyJ for seven months after we decided to divorce, even went on three trips with her during that time, and we had gotten along just fine.

But then I wasn't dating anyone else while still living with FoxyJ. This time, I started dating someone new three days after Clark and I broke up. Yeah, I know, that sounds like a pretty crappy thing to do, doesn't it? What it comes down to is that I failed, once again, to understand Clark. When we broke up, I was worn out from trying to make the relationship work and ready to move on, and I thought he was in the same place. I was wrong. I didn't realize how much he still cared for me or how much it would hurt him to see me with someone else. You'd think common sense would tell me this, but I guess I can be kind of stupid when it comes to relationships.

I also didn't think I would fall for the first guy I went out with after Clark. I was wrong about that too. I met Radon Spaceman online and we connected pretty quickly. I tried going out with a few other guys for the sake of not jumping from one relationship into the next--my friend Edgy Killer Bunny recommended I take Tina Fey and Amy Poehler's advice to Taylor Swift (to have some "me time," that is, not to stay away from Michael J. Fox's son)--but after a few dates with my Spaceman I concluded that to resist was futile. Once I heard him sing "Edelweiss" to his daughters on our third date, I was in love.

Pick a caption: "Zapped by the Zeta beam of love" OR "Adam Strange has his own co-dependency issues, assuming two entire planets depend on him."

So I was stupid about Clark's feelings, blind about how ready I was to move on, and yes, once I realized I was hurting Clark and pursued a new relationship anyway, I was being selfish. And honestly, I'm sorry that Clark was hurt, but when all is said and done, I did what I needed to do for me. Much of my growth over the past two years has been a series of lessons on when and how to be selfish. I spent thirty years turning off my feelings and worrying about everyone else's, so now I can spend the next thirty thinking about me and no one else, right? No, that would just make me a narcissistic prick. My challenge now is to be kind to others without becoming a doormat, to take care of myself without walking over the people I love. So while I've pursued a relationship that brings me happiness, I've made an effort to be a friend to Clark and to be a listening ear when he needed to talk. I've done my best to be sensitive to his feelings, but also to step back and let him have space to work through those feelings. For his part, he's worked hard to preserve our friendship and to respect my boundaries. As I've had to remind myself because otherwise I assume that everyone in the universe depends on me to make them happy, Clark is a capable adult who can find his own happiness.

Clark has moved out now, officially closing this chapter of my life. We are still friends and I hope that continues to be the case. I learned a lot of valuable lessons from my relationship with Clark. I learned what things I am willing to compromise on and what I am not willing to compromise on. I learned to take things more slowly--I still have not introduced Radon Spaceman to my kids, and he and I have agreed not to consider moving in together until we've been dating at least a year. I learned from Clark to be more compassionate toward people who disagree with me, as he is very good at seeing all sides of an issue. I've made too many mistakes in my life to waste time regretting them, so instead I choose to focus on the positive that has come from those experiences. I have a lot of happy memories from my time with Clark, and I'm glad to have them.

And now I'm making new happy memories with my Spaceman. I'm not going to start a blog about my Adventures in Space anytime soon. Typically I blog when I'm working through issues I need to write about in order to understand, and right now I'm at peace most of the time. Life is good. Carry on. Live long and prosper.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

To Be Continued...

According to the sidebar, this blog is about Clark and me "navigating the unfamiliar territory of blending our two families, while at the same time finding our place as a half-closeted gay couple in a small Utah town." Several months ago it became clear to us that we had very different ideas of what our place in this small Utah town should be, exactly how much we wanted to blend our families, and what it means to be a gay couple, half-closeted or otherwise. We had already moved in together, though, and there was still a lot of good in our relationship that neither of us wanted to give up. So we worked for months to find ways to compromise, to build a relationship that met both of our needs. Ultimately, we have decided to accept that we are at very different places in life and have very different needs. At this point in time, our goals are not compatible.

So we're taking a break. We will continue to be friends and we will continue to be housemates--me in my room upstairs and he in his room downstairs--at least through the end of our rental contract, and possibly longer. He and I both have a good track record when it comes to maintaining friendships with exes, and at least for right now it makes most sense for both of us to stay where we are.

Meanwhile, I'm going to take a break from this blog. I'm not going to call it more than "taking a break" right now because I find it's best to never say never. I will likely return to blogging at some point, because I always do, but when I do I'll probably start a new blog. This blog has been about Clark and me, and that particular story seems to be coming to an end. When I have a new story to tell, I'll find a new place to tell it. And I hope that my friend Clark will tell me all about the new stories that unfold in his life.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Building Bridges and Sitting On Them

This morning I received a Facebook invite for an event called Sit With Me Sunday. According to the FB event page, the idea is to "Invite a gay or lesbian or transgender person to sit with you at your regular service for the Christmas program," or if you are LGBT, to "come to church and enjoy the meeting with us." The event is sponsored by Mormons Building Bridges, which is an organization I respect, and the invitation came from a friend I like and respect. If she lived near enough that the invitation were actually to come to church with her, I would go just to support the cause of bridging the gap between Mormons and the LGBT community. She lives in Washington, though, and I'm not quite dedicated to the cause enough to go to church on my own--going twice a year to hear my kids sing in the Primary program and on Fathers' Day is enough for me.

This is how Superman builds bridges.
It was interesting to scroll down the event page and read the comments. The majority of them come from Mormons saying, "I would love to have an LGBT person sit with me at church! Where do I find one?" I don't mean to make fun of them; I fully support racial equality but if I had to come up with a Mongolian friend for Sit With A Mongolian Sunday, I'd be at a loss. But right now what I see is a bunch of people with good intentions and no clear plan. I don't by any means have all the answers for them, and in the long run I don't have exactly the same goals as they do, but I do share in their goal of bringing people together, so here are my two cents, speaking as a former Mormon and a self-appointed representative of the LGBT community:

One of the first things you all need to do is make some real-life LGBT friends. You could try cruising the 24-Hour Fitness saunas, but the guys you'd meet there are looking for something other than church. Perhaps more effective to volunteer at the local Pride Center or LGBT Outreach Center. You're wanting me to come to your territory, after all, so why not first show that you're willing to come to mine? By all means, be open about your religion. People may be skeptical at first--Mormons don't have a great reputation among queers--but what better way to show us that Mormons are not our enemies than by actively doing service in our communities? Missionaries use this tactic all the time, and I know my sister has challenged a lot of assumptions by participating in a PFLAG group as an active Mormon.

Second, if you want us to come to church, you first need to understand why we aren't going to church in the first place. The answer to this question will vary on a case-by-case basis. Some LGBT Mormons stop going to church because they don't feel welcome, but deep down they still believe. This group is the one most likely to benefit from an event like Sit With Me Sunday. Other LGBT Mormons, like me, may leave the church initially over the gay issue, but once we realize the church was wrong about that, we start to question other things as well. Many of us stop believing in God altogether. You may get us to sit with you for one Sunday, but if your goal is to get us back into the fold permanently, well, good luck with that. And then of course there are the LGBT folks who have never been Mormon. They come in all shapes, sizes, and religious backgrounds. Your primary obstacle here is going to be the fact that many people's only associations with the Mormon church are Prop 8 and Mitt Romney, but you've already solved that problem by joining PFLAG in the previous paragraph, so we're good there.

Finally, you need to ask yourself what your long-term goal is. My impression is that the majority of folks in the Mormons Building Bridges movement recognize that homosexuality is not a curable condition. The ones I know either believe that the church's current stance on homosexuality is based on the human limitations of church leaders who don't fully understand God's will, or they take a stance of "I don't know what God's will is, but I know I love and support my LGBT brothers and sisters no matter what they believe or how they live." I fear, though, that there are some hopping on the Sit With Me Sunday bandwagon who believe that if only gay people felt more welcome by church members, we'd come flocking back in hordes. Yes, LGBT folks feeling judged and unloved by Mormons is a big issue and I'm glad it's being addressed, but you have to understand that if you're asking people to participate in a church that teaches that their only options are celibacy or marrying someone they're not attracted to, then you're asking a lot. Would you leave your spouse in order to be able to take the sacrament and hold a temple recommend? Would you ever feel like you're fully part of a church that asks this of you? And then, of course, there are those of us who have other reasons for being outside the church. The LDS Church could announce tomorrow that they're going to start performing same-sex sealings in the Salt Lake Temple and I'd be happy for them, but it wouldn't change anything for me personally. That whole not believing in God thing is sort of antithetical to church.

So if you see Sit With Me Sunday as part of a missionary effort to convert or re-convert gay lost souls, you've got some huge obstacles in your way. If your goal is simply to build bridges, to show that Mormons and queers can be friends and work together regardless of religion or sexuality, then you've still got some serious obstacles, but I'm right there with you. Rock on, my friends.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

PDA Revisited

Last week I took my nine-year-old daughter, S-Boogie, to a Christmas concert at Temple Square in Salt Lake City. We had a nice evening seeing the lights, eating out for dinner, and enjoying the music together. As I sat on a bench at the back of the Assembly Hall with my arm around S-Boogie, I had a mini-epiphany: I'm not as screwed up as I thought I was. 

Back in August, I wondered why it is that I'm bothered by the need for Clark's and my relationship to be a secret. "Do I feel a sadistic need to shove my gay relationship in the faces of my socially conservative acquaintances?" I asked. "Do I want others to be jealous of my awesome boyfriend? Or am I just an exhibitionist who gains pleasure from displaying himself before the world?" 

At the concert last week, I realized that I was being just as affectionate with S-Boogie as I would ever want to be with my boyfriend in public. While walking around Temple Square we'd held hands, and in the Assembly Hall she snuggled up against me while I had my arm around her shoulders. Obviously I felt no need to shove our father-daughter relationship in the faces of the people around us, because no one would be shocked by a nine-year-old holding her dad's hand. It would be silly to think others would be jealous of my awesome daughter--most of the others there were also parents, who are no doubt under the mistaken impression that their kids are every bit as awesome as mine are. As for exhibitionism, I wasn't displaying anything that anyone would even notice. 

I was just being a dad who loves his daughter. I display my affection for her not because we're in public, but because that's what comes natural to me, no matter where we are. When I'm with someone I love, I tend not to notice the people around us. If I were in a relationship with someone who could be more open about our relationship publicly, I wouldn't indulge in any more PDA with him than I do with my kids. I have no desire to make out with my boyfriend in public. 

See? The Justice League isn't flaunting anything. They just love each other. 

None of this changes the fact that I am in a relationship with someone who, for many reasons, is not comfortable with any level of PDA. I'm at peace with that. I know I'm not going to change him. But for my own peace of mind, it's nice to understand why it took me a while to come to terms with this. And nice to cross one psychosis off the long list of ones I really do have. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Singing My Life With Her Words

A few years ago I read Alison Bechdel's Fun Home, a graphic memoir about Bechdel's repressed gay father, and was disturbed by how much I saw myself in him. I had a lot of anxiety about my role as a gay man in a straight marriage, and how that affected not only me but everyone else around me--particularly my children. Bechdel's account of how her father's repression seemed to manifest itself in a sort of parenting schizophrenia, coddling one moment and vicious the next, struck a little too close to home for me. I wrote an essay about it.

When I heard that Bechdel had written a sequel of sorts, this one a memoir about her mother, I was anxious to read it because I'd been impressed by Bechdel's talent as both a writer and a graphic storyteller, but I did not expect to identify with the book in the same way as I had with Fun Home. I was wrong. In Are You My Mother?, Bechdel tells about her relationship with her mother, focusing largely on the events surrounding the writing and publication of both books. In many ways, this book is a memoir about memoirs. It's also an intense session of self-psychoanalysis, as Bechdel weaves in discussions with her therapists over the years, as well as her own study of British psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott. At several points while reading Bechdel's words, I felt like I was reading about my relationship with my mother, my experiences with writing, my attempts to understand my own psychology.

On more than one occasion concerned family members and friends of mine have questioned the wisdom of putting so much of my personal life on public blogs, on Facebook, in published essays. I myself have questioned my motivations, the narcissism it takes to assume that anyone wants to read about my life except me. One of the major conflicts of Are You My Mother? is the ambivalence Bechdel's mother feels about her daughter revealing so much about their lives publicly. When discussing a poem she read in The New Yorker, Bechdel's mother says of the poet (not Bechdel), "Who cares about the fellowship she didn't pursue when she was twenty because she got married instead? It's too specific." Bechdel replies, "Um... I dunno... Can't you be more universal by being specific? Everyone regrets something, right?" Her mother starts to go on to another topic, then says, "I just don't know why everyone has to write about themselves."

Not only do I identify with the conflict of wanting to write about my life without offending the people I love, but I believe in Bechdel's reasoning. The universal can be found in the specific. When Bechdel was ten, she got sick and threw up on the bathroom floor. While recalling how her mom helped her, she says, "I guess I felt like I'd failed her. She had so many demands on her... The one thing she needed from me was that I not need anything from her." When I read this passage the other day I had to stop and read it again four or five more times. I don't remember ever feeling guilty about getting sick. There is no stain on my childhood bathroom floor like the one that haunted Bechdel for years afterward. Her specifics are foreign to me but the universal experience they represent is all too familiar. I grew up believing exactly what Bechdel expresses, that my job was to not need anything from my mother or, for that matter, from anyone. I have spent the past couple of years trying to unlearn this, to make myself believe that it's okay for me to have needs, even when the people I need things from are just as needy as I am. To read Alison Bechdel express this feeling that is so profoundly a part of who I am was a transcendent experience, one of those moments when writing uses its powers of telepathy to connect people in ways we wouldn't otherwise.

Hey, a comic book cover that is actually relevant to my blog post! 

The title of Bechdel's new memoir, of course, refers to the picture book by P.D. Eastman about a bird looking for his mother, who asks each animal he comes across, "Are you my mother?" Bechdel refers several times to wanting people to be her mother, whether it's Donald Winnicott, her therapists, or her actual mother. I'm not really on the market for a new mother, but Alison Bechdel, will you be my friend?

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The All-Powerful Mr. Fob

I am one month away from fulfilling my goal of doing something new every day this year, and I just successfully completed NaNoWriMo. This should tell you something important about me: I am one stubborn bastard. When I determine that I am going to do something, I do it. Setting and reaching goals makes me feel good about myself because it makes me feel like I'm in control, like I can do anything. It makes me feel powerful. So not only am I stubborn, but I am also cocky. If I decide that toilets should flush counterclockwise in the northern hemisphere, then goddammit, I'm going to make that happen.

This sense of power that comes with reaching goals is great because it helps me overcome the fear of trying new things, but sometimes it can lead to frustration. There are, unfortunately, some things I cannot control, no matter how great my will. I cannot force other people to be what I want them to be. I could not simply will myself to be happy in a heterosexual marriage. I can't make money appear out of thin air. Even the things I can do are balanced by limitations. I wrote a novel this past month, but in order to do so I had to give up other things--time I might have spent doing dishes, going out with Clark, going to the gym, or sleeping. So while to some extent I can do anything, I can't do everything.

When Green Lantern became all-powerful, he tried to destroy the universe and remake it in his image. Perhaps limitations are a good thing. 

Limitations frustrate me when I first hit my head against them, but then I get used to them and accept reality. Just like everyone else, I make choices and then live with the consequences. I evaluate, then reevaluate what is most important to me. This year I put broadening my range of life experiences at the top of the list. In November writing another novel was my priority. I'm starting to form ideas of what my priorities will be next year. Whatever I decide, I'm feeling pretty confident that I will make it happen. I am Mr. Fob. Hear me roar.

Monday, November 12, 2012


A quick break from NaNoWriMo to check in here: I'm at my sister's house and my oldest daughter, S-Boogie, is upstairs doing Native American beading with her and some friends. My two oldest sisters are both half-Seneca. S-Boogie has benefited from this connection before, when my sister took her to hoop dance classes along with my nephew, and S-Boogie ended up getting to perform in the BYU Pow Wow. I'm grateful that she gets to participate in these cultural traditions, even though the culture is not technically her own.

I grew up in Hawai'i, where I was a minority. My friends called me Slappy White, White-White Boy, or Whitey (again, that's what my friends called me). I had friends who learned hula from their aunties, who spoke Japanese with their grandparents, who went to the Chinese Buddhist temple with their parents. Although I'm glad I was exposed to all these cultural traditions while growing up, I never felt like they were mine. I always felt cultureless in comparison to everyone around me. The irony is that my culture is everything else around me--from McDonald's to our system of government, the bulk of American culture is European in origin. But that fact doesn't exactly make me special.

My sisters all married men of Hawaiian, Chinese, or Thai ancestry and have beautiful hapa children. I always imagined I'd do the same, but I ended up marrying a white woman, and we created beautiful children who (to our surprise) are very, very white. I hope my kids are able to strike a balance I've never quite managed to strike myself--between appreciating other cultures and not being ashamed of my own. Perhaps their Seneca, Hawaian, Chinese, and Thai aunts, uncles, and cousins will help them feel like they belong to a broader human culture.

If my family were a superhero team, we'd be the Global Guardians--a collection of multicultural stereotypes.