Monday, December 17, 2012

Five Years

And so it ends like it began...?

Five years, and the story comes to its close. A new chapter opens and creates futures just as difficult for me to recognize as the past. The blue and yellow has transformed into the red and black.

Five years...that's all we've got...

As surely as I felt it, that night staring at the sky while standing at a bus stop, something had started and, because it had a beginning, it would someday have an end. It would take time to get there, and in the process I would develop new lives to lead into this open world I had now exposed myself to. Five years ago, I didn't know how things would end...only that sometime during the winter of 2012, things would.

In 2007, I believed myself better able to understand the aftermath of that summer's intensity of meaning. Really, things had just begun. A contemplation of death, a distance between me and the one I loved most, and the belief I could trick myself into hope.

In the passing years, death has become much, much more than it was when I stood on the bridge that morning, staring at the water, looking for my fate, wondering if dying would be quick or slow after I jumped. That morning, I thought I could cheat death by believing someone out there was waiting for me. I had no ability to understand how death would make eternal the distance between me and him...he who I loved more than anyone, even myself. I was incapable of realizing my beliefs stood on precious little ground whether I wanted to trick myself or not.

And now, five years later, I am not sure what I can hope for anymore. The best friend I ever had is in cold ground, his name in ugly letters on stone. I found love, then lost it, then found it again...and denied it. All the fantasies I tried to carry past their point of relevance have finalized into obscure, ambiguous imagery. The ultimate reconciliation of God has been exposed as the ultimate beautiful lie I had avoided. I feel more alone---and cheated---than I'd ever have known I could feel.

"...And all the nobody people, and all the somebody people ---
I never thought I'd need so many people."

I gave names to the seasons.

COTTONFIRE - The summer of 2007, overture to what's coming...The blinding dawn of a new world which yet remains black and dark. Battle of heroes...Imaginary worlds to sustain me while I become disenchanted by everything around me, setting itself aflame. The ending to the most important friendship of my life.

Across The Universe - From autumn of 2007 until the winter of 2008. Escape from the house I grew up in, at last. The last thread snaps, the one between me and the church that was mine...and the people. I can't see you anymore, he said. Forced shadows. A girl. I'm done with being confused. The choice, then the boy. Did I know from the start? An incredible summer, my first kiss---then, the fiercest pain I've ever felt. "It's called heartbreak," he says, his telephone voice without emotion. And I'm alone again.

P O L A R I S - Two years, perhaps where a church mission might have been. From 2009 to 2010, the kind of friend I always felt like being, the tables reverse when my first best friend in years suddenly falls in love with me, then hides it to save our friendship...which ends anyway in catastrophe. But these are the circus years. God is dead. That one perfect boy scorns me, I don't whether to smash or fuck his pretty boy face. Then, London, where Satan stops at Bethnal Green. I feel connected, like I might never be alone again. Images recur of other places, places with knights and angels, and the end of the world. And a falling boy. I can never tell if it is me or someone else.

     white noise. - 2011, abismo bendito. Signals in crosshairs, deafening static the only sound that gives me any meaning anymore. Is there a name for this? Can this be named? Rumored abyss...but it is also the 'one year later' story, a hole through time. I make the terrible, terrible choice to abandon the man who loves me. I feel like I can hear everything all at once. Madness. Stateless. All reality constantly threatens to snap apart. I have snapped apart. Fragmented, trying to feel more whole when nothing feels broken, either. But there is a girl who lets me get as close to her as she dares to be close to me. We only trust each other during our final fantasies with the circus, and that lost boy, before we all try to grow up. A November morning communion. Then: betrayal, and the beginning of a curse. The last of twilight, and now a shadow falls.

Now, 2012. It's one cold, winter day. But to see him again for the first time in nearly five years gives me a strange sensation in an older part of my's a warm, good feeling. But how could I know it would be the last. There are last rites in bat country. Dark side...evil seems to win, every friendship goes fragile, then breaks. War of the worlds. I play with oblivion. Then...he falls. There is no immaculate collapse - just brutality and violence. The tragedy is so perfect, I don't know how I didn't see it coming - it was all there from the overture. But I didn't see it. Fear and regret, my constant companions now that the Black Parade is dead. Nightfall is clearing to reveal a blood red wasteland. I have lost almost everything, and I have almost nothing left to give. And it's over, all over.

But now bells begin to sound.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Farewell, Elder Roxas

For nearly five years, I've been a member of an online community of Mormons who deal with same gender attractions. For the most part, this group consists of men (and some women) in their later years. Since I joined, and even before, there have not been many who are younger than twenty-five.

As I've grown increasingly antagonistic towards the LDS church, its history, its policies, and its leadership, I've been the source of a few spats in this community. 

Two weeks ago, one young man named Paul (who had not posted in the three years he was a member) posted something brave, about reconciling his spiritual life with his choice to have homosexual relationships. Although he wrote he felt strong in his Mormonism, his strongest point was to reveal the community's guilt and shame as needless symptoms of demonizing our sexuality and our body, and he encouraged the group in general to overcome its habits. The group collectively discredited and mocked him. For me, along with several other things this summer, this was the last straw. 

What follows is my 'letter of resignation' from the group.

This will come as a relief to a number of people who are members of [this group].

Although this is not the first time I say goodbye, it will be the last.

Some weeks ago, I woke up to something disturbing.

My mother was standing in my kitchen. My roommate made odd faces about her. I rubbed away the sleep in my eyes. She was impatient to get me out of my apartment to tell me something.

Stubbornly, as I walked through the door, I thought, “This had better be quick, mother. Last night, my best friend left me a message...maybe we’ve finally started speaking again since he came back from his mission six months ago. And, the first thing I want to do today is call him back.”

My mother was very bothered. More than usual. I’d thought this had something to do with my eviction notice, which had been sitting on the kitchen table.

My mother cleared her throat, and told me last night my best friend had been in an accident up the canyon. I stared. “He’s dead, honey,” she said at last.

It was all over the news. Reporters had stolen his picture from his facebook. The earliest reports had hit the airwaves before the sheriff had even notified his next of kin.

He was with a girl, exploring an old spillway pipe, built during a mudslide in 1983 which is still on record as the most catastrophic (and the most expensive) mudslide disaster in the history of this country. The pipe is only gated on one side -- the other drops off on the other side of the mountain as a rocky cliff, where one can still see the trauma from the old mudslide. The years self-destruct in the dirt; 1920s rooftops poke out of the grass, a 1950s truck is embedded into a river bank. Surrounding the area are shot up TVs and metal sheets, nearby is the shooting range for the county sheriffs. It cannot be properly called a ghost town, yet it is uniquely desolate.

My friend had never been to this place before. But the girl had, and my friend was trained like every other young Mormon male to only desire an early marriage. This, evidently, is “one of those places” local teenagers and BYU zoobies go, thinking they are being dangerous, young, wild, and free. I will never forget there was no moon that night. So it was dark. No one’s sure what happened. He heard a noise, and whether he lost his balance or slipped, he fell off the cliff: headfirst, down nearly eighty feet.

Although he came to several times in the helicopter on the way to the hospital, it was, as the sheriff told me, obvious he would not survive. He was more or less given up for dead. But he was dead to me long before that night.

This boy was my best friend because he was the truest friend I’d ever had to help me deal with my same gender attractions. He took it more seriously than my bishop, my father, or my few other friends who knew about my struggles. He was passionate about me. He knew I could be happy, that I could eventually fall in love -- with a girl. His spiritual strength was unmatched...I’ve never met a single Mormon with a stronger heart than his.

He was years younger than me, a Californian and new in my neighborhood, and while it took a few years for him to get along with anyone else his age in the ward, he and I were best friends immediately. But, it wasn’t long before we began to fight. He was frustrated I wasn’t trying hard enough, and I was just frustrated with myself.

The moment came, about five years ago, when I realized my friend would get everything I would never have. A mission calling, a temple marriage, beautiful children...all this would be his, because of his faithfulness. I wouldn’t ever have those things. I wanted him to be happy, even though I would never have those things. Because I loved him so much.

Eventually we were forced to put distance between us. His parents forbade him from associating with me because I was 19 and not on a mission.

Five years did a lot to me. I was abandoned by church leaders and ward members. Certain past members of [this group] were harsh with my weakening faith. And when I prayed, the heavens were silent. I was afraid of living and dying alone. So, I started my first romantic relationship -- with a guy, from a nearby town. It lasted a summer before ending in a terrible heartbreak, and a lot of things about my world began to change. I stopped going to church. I began to study other religions. I played with tarot cards and ouija boards and studied atheism. I experimented with drinking, drugs, sex, and rock music. I hung out with Communists, philosophers, Buddhists, journalists, the clinically insane, and city punks living in poverty. I met the devil in London. I got lost in the desert and nearly froze to death. I made and lost several friends. I met another guy...and fell in love for the first time with someone I wanted to spend the rest of my life with...but from doubts and fears I rejected him -- to my everlasting regret. And all the while my "best friend" was on the other side of town, preparing for his mission call.

This summer was a most unprecedented time, because I have never known such difficult times. An unfair dispute with my landlord threatened me with another season of homelessness. New government regulation of education has taken away my financial aid, and now two semesters away from finishing my degree, I have no choice but to abandon everything -- which, in turn, forced me to quit my job (because I was working for the school). I’ve watched all my friends turn on one another in betrayal and distrust. Others have broken relationships or defeated dreams. Recent events throughout the world have slowly broken my faith in humanity -- now that my faith in God is all but gone.

College dropout. Homeless. Nearly starving (I spent a week or two eating out of a peanut butter jar). I'd never felt more lost, when my mother showed up in my kitchen that fateful morning. 

I’ve never known if my friend would accept me as I am now, with all my mistakes. And now, I’ll never know. This is the first time someone close to me has died. He died young, and he died violently, and only out of respect for the God he believed in do I not curse the heavens why on earth did it have to be him, why did it have to be now. This is not more than I can stand, but it is enough. It is all, all I can stand. And I am truly lost.

The distance of five years, death has made eternal. I cared about him more than I’ve ever cared about anyone...including my family, including myself. I’d have given my life up for him, and still would. Christ suggested this is perhaps the greatest love we can have. I am lucky to have found that love, and I am either blessed or cursed that love is not for a woman. I have all but given myself to the road to perdition. He could have had everything. I don’t know why God has spared me but taken him, whom I loved so. Now, he is dead. His broken body lies in an overcrowded cemetery. And I? I cannot put my love anywhere. There was so much of it, and that love is now as alone as me. And I have never felt so alone in my life.

I have never told members [here] to stop believing in the gospel. I have never encouraged others to leave the church. I have never encouraged others to break the law of chastity. I have never said a word of denial against God, Christ, Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, or the faith of the men and women on this list.

All I ever wanted others to know is the fulness of joy that comes from a truly intimate relationship with someone of the same gender -- like the one I had with my best friend.

But I cannot continue to be part of a community that continually treats me as if I am an enemy. If my spiritual beliefs and respectful solidarity is not enough -- if committed activity and strict adherence to authority and policy is what’s required -- then I truly have no place among the Mormons anymore.

Paul was not hated because he suggested it is not a sin in God’s eyes to kiss another man. Paul was hated because he was the first in years, six or seven at least, to suggest this community comes together over SGA because we all come together over our immense guilt, shame, and fear about SGA. We even give it an acronym, like it’s a disease. We talk about our so-called addictions to masturbation and pornography, counting the periods of abstinence as “victories.” We talk about what we’ve overcome, what temptations we’ve beaten. We focus on what causes us guilt, what makes us ashamed to even pray at night -- the sexual desires we repress, the erotic impulses we feel nearly consumed by, and we talk of these things as we talk of The Enemy. And yet, when one among us who barely (or, in Paul’s case, never) speaks up -- in expression of discovered happiness and spiritual peace in what he has found between him and his Heavenly Father, he is called false, implicated in some abstract corruption, denounced as an enticer to evil, and criticized as a rationalizer of sin.

All I wanted was to share what I’ve learned with others...that I’ve learned, love is all we have in this life. That’s why Christ thought it was so important. Love can cross any limit, any distance. Love is all we have, no matter who we find it with. No matter the distance, I will always feel connected to my friend, a love beyond limits for that headstrong boy from California. I trusted him, felt safe in his home, in his room, in his arms. I loved the sound of his laughter, his dark eyes, his smile. His faith was nothing short of inspiring, and it matters not his faith was in Mormonism: he loved me, and told me so. I never told him I loved him back. I had friends like him who gave me everything, loved me so much...I had lovers who loved me so much more. I couldn’t trust any of them, or feel safe around them, because I’ve lost my faith in myself, my faith in my ability to connect with other men.

Now, I go in search of that faith. And God and Mormons, it seems, I must put behind me.

Most of my old emails between me and my friend are on this account. And I'm about to delete it. It seems there is no longer any use for it.

So, goodbye.

-- Elder Roxas

Friday, July 27, 2012


From a recent online discussion, where an old best friend posted a picture of Morgan Freeman informing his interviewer that the way to solve problems of racism is, "Stop talking about it." After an involving argument with his cousin, the conversation was nearly put to rest when his cousin suggested I get over my harsh, racist experiences because everyone experiences inadequacy over skin color, including white people. (And she has a number of non-white friends, she says, so she also doesn't feel she is a racist person.) I got angry, and what follows is my angry reply. I post it here because, frankly, I'm sick of having to repeat myself whenever I hear this. So now it's here.

Perhaps you, as a white person, feel you've felt inadequacy over skin color. To be honest, I have no idea how it would be similar to mine, or my family's, or anyone else I know who isn't white -- and it is, at the least, arrogant of you to presume it's similar.

I've been kept from hanging out with neighborhood kids, held up in a Harmon's on false theft accusations when I was nine, prevented from dating a ton of white people (who specifically told me it's because I'm not white), limited in my academic field, certain kinds of marginalization and stereotyping in my middle/high school years and at church, called racial slurs and spat at, kept ignorant of my cultural history -- and in my darkest moments, each time those things happened a part of me desired to have white skin.

Have you ever been rejected by a lover because of your skin color? Has your heritage ever been completely obscured by the celebrations of another race? Have you ever had someone call you a dirty name, then spit at your feet, and tell you it's because of your skin color? Has a professor ever told you to specialize in studying the history of your skin color because everyone else in the department gets to study anything else? Have you ever spent lonely days or lonely nights staring at your skin, and wishing there was just a little bit more white, and not darkness? I'm talking about a very profound sense of alienation, social marginalization, and self-loathing. And every non-white friend I have knows what all of this is like. And you're telling me you've "in your own way" felt this desire, this wishing, and the endless guilt that follows? NO. You have not.

It is a slap in my face to say "...oh yes, us 'whites' feel it too." No alienation or inadequacy you think you've felt over having white skin could possibly compare or relate to the alienation and inadequacy over *not* having white skin in me, or my African American girl friend, or my Mexican/Chilean American girl friend, or my guy friends from Pakistan and Afghanistan, or my co-worker from the Dominican Republic, or...A white person trying to argue that everyone feels the hatred and inadequacy of racism is mocking, and it's offensive. I'm sure you didn't intend to be offensive -- but that's very offensive. And it is precisely the ignorance in that attitude I'm identifying as racist.

Of course "hatred and intolerance of another race extends past 'whites.'" But you have entirely missed my point if you think that's it, and we should all just move on. Racism is not a universal behavior, like there is no banality of evil; the song from 'South Park' about how "everybody's a little bit racist" is a bunch of hogwash that only perpetuates the same broken ideology contemporary racism embraces.

For racism to continue, in fact, it needs white people to publicly say things like, "I've dealt with racism even as a white person; we all have to deal with racism, so let's all be equal." Racism doesn't work like that, and every day it's more and more unfortunate less and less people with white skin fail to understand this.

I'm not the only one to deal with this issue, but until everyone (especially white people) realizes that I and others like me shouldn't have to be the only ones who think critically and authentically about racism, then it will always be a problem for you and me and everyone else. And the kind of thinking you've demonstrated is proof no matter how informed you believe you are about racism, and no matter how many friends you have of diverse ethnicities, you still don't get it.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

A Better Devil

From a recent correspondence with my cousin, over recent LDS church actions in Provo.

Hey, my young cousin. I think much has already been said for you to think about. 

Let me answer some of your questions directly -- beginning with your question about why I am playing devil's advocate, when the devil is (as you put it) "inherently evil" and, therefore, what makes me better than those leading the church whom I accuse of evil. 

 A lot of Mormons I know often indulge in an image of apparent self-victimhood, and I think it's pathetic. If members were actually challenged with legitimate criticisms, frank evaluations, and provocative questions, perhaps the church might have more to offer the world. 

As it is, members often dismiss agression as if it is only agression -- and not the obvious symptom of an organization and culture deeply threatened by the maladjusted, anywhere it's found, and so by nature of its very structure creates its own fundamental discontent and opposition. The primitive Christianity, the social/cultural naivete, and the willful psychological ignorance of most Mormons in this state have led me to believe the church, despite rapid global expansion, doesn't deserve to survive another century the way it is now.

I openly accost the church precisely because there are those who, like you, like the church (and with good intentions) but choose to not distinguish its abusive management and corporate organization from the radical potential of its own spirituality, philosophy, and history (since acknowledging complexities might betray or undermine the nature of good intentions) -- thus, my opinions are not something they care to hear. 

I am not playing devil's advocate. The devil, throughout Western religions and the arts (literature, music, even comic books, etc.), is a character heavily invested in certain traditions, archetypes, history, and meaning. Mormonism, however, has an entirely unsophisticated understanding of Satan by comparison. He's simply a bogeyman, and a scapegoat, and it seems his only real use is to be feared as "inherently evil," the real source behind every human failing, weakness, or temptation. In the view of any mainstream Christian, that's weak at best. No other Mormon I've known besides myself is at all suspicious of how often we tend to blame something on Satan. 

 The devil is the ultimate con man, the trickiest of them all, as well as a rebel forces leader. He's considered a freak, a monster, and the first outcast in the world. Why else, upon his birth in the novel, does Frankenstein's monster love Milton's Lucifer? There is an instant understanding from the monster, who is himself unnamed. 

To me, the devil is less a god of evil and more a variation on the trickster figure, because there is both light and dark in him. Satan is a fallen angel with a bone to pick, but the devil is someone who challenges everything you think is true and forces you to grow stronger by taking up those challenges. That's why, to me, the last truly great devil Mormons had was Joseph Smith himself. He's not someone you want to completely trust, but it's not that he's simply to be feared, either. 

 No matter how many times the LDS church leadership does something incredibly stupid, like this new MTC building, I keep waiting for them to do something that will make me lose my mind at last and become a big problem for them; Mormons will rue the day I finally break, so it's probably a good thing I've been such a [slightly] polite pushover this long when they've spent this long pushing almost all of my buttons. 

Simply put: the Mormons need a better devil than the one they claim to believe in, and I'm willing to put on those horns because that role must be played -- and, if I do say so, I qualify pretty well for the job. I don't intend to play the devil's advocate. Not at all. I intend to play devil, himself. 

Your next question makes sense, cousin -- asking if I'm any better? Well, I'm not in this game to compete against other moral positions. I leave that to any self-proclaimed heroes, martyrs, or fools. If you've come this far, but you have not taken on the ambiguities and complexities of something or someone you love, you will only have a narrow understanding of them, entirely limited to what you've invented. 

 It's difficult for anyone to hear horrible things about something or someone they love, and particularly if it's spiritual in nature. But faith without questions is dead. Simple as that. A static testimony is a bunch of white noise over a pulpit, a D.O.A. sentiment. The early church leaders believed in the utmost rigor in one's testimony, constantly keeping it dynamically alive with persistent study, questioning, searching. Last I knew, I've read the Book of Mormon four or five more times than any of my friends who all served missions instead of me. Testimonies need to be challenged to survive (which -- it turns out -- is what a good devil is around to help accomplish, if you consider Jewish rabbinical literature, for instance.) 

Mormons cannot often take it when someone appears to be making their lives harder by criticizing the church, and there's at least one good reason why: they deserve better than the church is giving them and, knowing that, leadership has nearly the entire membership tranquilized, arresting nearly any spiritual development that doesn't happen on their terms. Last time that happened in this country, a young farmer boy from upstate New York decided to go see God about it and fight to make his faith his own -- and just look what happened to him. 

Another reason: there are few to no good adversaries of Mormons. I'm looking into that. 

Finally, my cousin, you asked if I have the right, in all fairness, to make people's lives harder. As nicely as I can, you are woefully unprepared to demand what's fair. 

You have always, compared to my lot in this world, enjoyed a certain amount of privilege (and while it's not entirely your fault you're in the dark as to why, there are things you can do to educate yourself). A happy marriage, family, getting paid somewhat fairly, being a return missionary -- all of these things, this culture and society will practically hand to you. It's all yours for the asking. But because of my choices, I've been fixed like a moth on a board to my proper place as "a bad apple." Something went wrong on my way out the factory. I will never have any of the blessings you have. My chosen [homo]sexual behavoirs and chosen cultural identity as a queer faggot, as well as my mulatto ethnicity, will always marginalize me to degrees you, unfortunately, aren't immediately aware of. Some choices have even been completely taken from me. 

It may be tough to hear others hate on the only real organization and people you've ever loved but the church and its members have, throughout most of its history, continually made harder the lives of men and women like me, and most certainly in ways that make totally infantile any provocations Mormons feel they've "suffered" from people who oppose or criticize them. 

I love women, I love the cultures of peoples who aren't white or from the U.S. I do not stop talking to someone because they have sex, do drugs, or read Marx. I don't discriminate between so-called "lifestyles" -- those are what the rich have, and I hate the rich. I love any number of things about being truly alive in this world, for as the scripture says, we are that we might have joy. And Mormonism has since its inception attacked women, non-white peoples, sexual deviants, non-nuclear families, knoweldge and wisdom, history, and any number of things that are far more profound than talking smack about a church. And one of these days, Mormons will finally lose all my good graces. 

You don't like questioning something you love, or wondering if it's a horrible thing, but I've been questioning everything about who or what I love my entire life, and it has bore a hole in me through which I will fall for forever. 

I gave the church my life, and nearly completely my love, and the church has done almost nothing but make my life harder -- and it'll continue to get harder as I get older, because it will always be part of me. 

I tried to make a choice to be happy and follow what's in my heart; because of that, I will be punished. 

You have the faith that what's in your heart is aligned with what God wants: turns out, God wants his kingdom fully of white/white-faced, politically conservative and heteronormative males, and I'm none of those things. 

There is no family I will live with forever. I have no glories or blessings to claim, and my inheritance is dust on a wind, compared to yours. I am an eternal orphan, just a kid from yesterday. And so are many others I know who've been in very real pain because of the LDS church. Almost everyone I love most, Mormons cast aside and marginalize. 

You ask if I have the right to make people's lives harder: we'd beg of you, what gives you the guts to even ask.