Thursday, November 19, 2015

Running Away to San Francisco

Well, maybe not running company paid my way and entrance to a professional software development conference in San Francisco, CA.

Golden Gate Bridge

I took advantage and caught up with old and new friends in the evenings, and I got to see the historical Castro district, the original gay capital of the world.

An intersection on Castro Street, San Francisco

Castro Camera, Harvey Milk's business during his social
activism. Now houses the HRC.

San Francisco is AMAZING! Of course, it is much more so now that I've had my fragile world view shattered into a million tiny, sharp pieces and have spent painstaking effort and energy cleaning it up and restructuring it.

I booked my stay at the Green Tortoise Hostel, a decent sized European-style hostel. On Sunday morning, I arrived and checked in, and the kind, friendly young woman from New Zealand attending the front desk asked whether I was vegetarian and followed up with an invitation to free breakfast in the ballroom. She then accompanied me and showed me around the place—excellent hosts!

This hostel attracted people from all over—the prices were unbelievably cheap: $54 a night! The flip side was: small, cramped, shared, co-ed rooms. I lucked out and only had one other person in my room, and we had opposite schedules, so I was always asleep when he got to the room, and I left before he woke up, so we didn't disturb each other too much. The hostel provided free dinner every other night, free breakfast every morning, and a large ballroom where the hostel guests could mix and mingle every day and evening. I got to meet some cool people from Ukraine and from New Zealand. The hostel was located in an adult part of town—several adult clubs were nearby. I knew ahead of time that topless clubs wouldn't be a problem for me :)

The hostel was very cozy and intimate, with painted walls of every color, posters and signs up everywhere inviting the guests to bar crawls, restaurant hopping, live music nights, and more. The front desk had a fun little sign: "Hump your hostel mates safely!" A basket of free condoms accompanied the sign. Around the corner was another sign: "California is in a drought. Save water...shower together!"

Women's Building

I imagined that San Francisco would be welcoming of everyone from different backgrounds, but it was so much more than I expected!

Women's Building

The cramped, bustling streets were caged in by the painted history on the building faces all around. From the Mission District, painted ladies, and women's building down to the Castro district with LGBT acceptance abounding, and up to the Golden Gate Bridge and Muir Woods, a wet, humid haven from the busy, noisy city, there was so much to absorb.

Some of the trees in Muir Woods are 1,100 years old! 

I finished off the trip with a quick visit to the GLBT Historical Society Museum. I learned about the San Francisco counterculture movements. And this whole time I've been trying to reconcile being gay with the culture of Utah...I had it wrong! Be bold, make a statement. Make the status quo uncomfortable.

Behold, the Leather David statue by Mike Caffee.
It's a reworked model of Michelangelo's David.
Originally commissioned for the grand opening of Fe-Be's bar, now at home in the
GLBT Historical Society Museum.

I learned more about Harvey Milk's legacy and all the good he did. One of my favorite quotes was painted on the wall of his former camera shop, Castro Camera:

"If a bullet should enter my brain, let the bullet destroy every closet door." —Harvey Milk, 9 days before his
assassination at San Francisco City Hall.

Could I see myself living here one day? In Utah, being gay is such a big deal! I'm told all the time: Dan, don't define yourself by this, you're so much more than this. What they don't realize is that *they* make it such a big deal. I just want to live somewhere where it's no big deal to be gay.

One friend I met up with told me: "Dan, you'd be like a god here...being gay is cool, everyone wishes they were gay!"

Is moving to the tech hub in San Francisco in my future? In my 5-year plan? My 1-year plan? I don't know. I already have several friends there, so finding a new social circle wouldn't be incredibly difficult. But is that selfish of me? I've tried to stick around and rock the boat here in Provo, Utah, changing hearts and minds from the inside. But it's so exhausting! Is it selfish to want to take time for me, to define myself in a location where socially-constructed boxes can't impose limits on who I am?

Saturday, November 14, 2015

15 for a Decade

Me, 15 years old

Mormons don't date until they're 16 years old. That means I've been 15 for a decade now.

I graduated from BYU a few months ago. My interpretation of the Honor Code and church's stance on being gay meant no dating, no flirting, no pursuing relationships, no kissing. So I didn't. For 4 years at school, plus 2 years on a mission. That's six years without dating.

I didn't date in high school, citing the same church rule: no dating before 16. My peers got used to my response, so when I actually turned 16, nobody followed up on it: I was just the guy that didn't date. Actually, I was gay but just didn't know it, so I wasn't really motivated to date anyone. Apart from a few school dances with close friends, I didn't go on any dates.

Now that I've graduated, it's like turning 16 in the church: I can now date without the fear of losing my education, two on-campus jobs, and housing.

The hard part is that I'm entering the dating world as a timid 16-year-old, where most others in my circumstance that have decided to date those of the same gender have been dating all along. The result? I have trouble finding anyone who wants a good, formal date without the expectation of sex.

Dan Bunker

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Graduating from the Church, or Why Some Don't Find It So Easy to...Just Believe

Three years ago I got home from my 2-year mission to Mexico City. It was truly one of the greatest experiences of my life. I still keep in contact with converts, and I just received news that one of our most devoted investigators was baptized a week ago. I'm elated for her.

She's just beginning her journey in the church, and I've seen it do many wonderful things for her in her life. I whole-heartedly support her in her decision—she fits in the Mormon culture, gospel, and plan.

One year ago I attended my first Affirmation conference, a group that focuses on supporting individuals in navigating their sexuality, gender identity, and Mormon association. As the name suggests, it is an affirmative, all-inclusive group. The leadership has a rich diversity, and those that participate include the same-sex married, some who are in mixed-orientation marriages, some who are single, and men, women, transgender, gender non-binary, and more. At the conference, I met the president of the organization, who kindly invited me to invite my parents to the devotional. They were in town for my niece's baptism, so the timing was perfect. They came to the devotional, and there was an incredible experience: I posit that there are very few intersections where my mother cries from feeling the spirit at the same place and time that a transgender woman with a hot pink wig and a fairy wing costume pounds the pulpit, declaring that women will hold the priesthood because she's a woman and she exercises her pre-transition priesthood. Certainly not everyone there shared the woman's beliefs, but the intersection of several journeys, beliefs, and valid feelings was an incredible experience.

During this same testimony meeting, one man got up and spoke about his experience in the church. He said that his journey in it had come to an end, and that he graduated from the church. He said that everyone would eventually graduate from the church—they had to. I scoffed at the idea, afraid that my parents would be turned off toward supporting my participation in this organization. I thought to myself: I will never be on that side of the fence.

It's easy as a member of the church in good standing to clearly see who's wrong. As a missionary, if an investigator or less active member wasn't keeping certain commandments, it was simple: they simply didn't understand the doctrine. The task was to go and teach them with power and authority, and the behavior would follow their understanding of the doctrine. And if they didn't, it was because we weren't teaching correctly. Furthermore, the sentiment exists that if a returned missionary becomes less active, it's simple: they weren't really converted in the first place, and they didn't truly understand the doctrine. As an active member, I vowed that I would never become an inactive returned missionary—my faith was too strong.

Or was it?

My first experience of feeling targeted by the church instead of feeling embraced by it was my experience of being released as Executive Secretary by my Stake President for simply coming out. Yes, I am the YM that I wrote about. Writing in third person was therapeutic and helped me process the situation a little more objectively. I fought my doubts through every step of that experience. I vowed never to become bitter against the church. Several times, I thought I was over it, I thought I had moved on, healed. I asserted that my faith had remained strong.

But had it?

This began a period of questioning in my life. My mind had been opened to other world views as I met new people and heard their experiences. Some of these new friends were happily married to their same-sex spouses, and life was working for them.

The questioning began like this: Do I really believe that this couple is going to hell? Do I really believe that a monogamous, committed same-sex marriage is against God's will? If so, do I really believe that He would let some of his children make that choice and lose them forever, their mortal happiness costing their eternal salvation? Would he remain that silent?

But then again, isn't God always silent? I mean, He uses a still, small voice. But does He? I've never heard a voice. A voice is audible, certain. I have always been taught that He uses the Spirit and operates through the feelings, which are rather turbulent, unstable, and uncertain things. I became disturbed, so I went back to the basics (that's what you're supposed to do, right?).

I started with my testimony. I know that the church is true and that Joseph Smith was a true prophet. I know this because I read the Book of Mormon and prayed about it, asking about its truthfulness. I felt the Spirit testify of its truth through my feelings, and I recognized those feelings as the Spirit because the Bible defines them as fruits of the Spirit. I know that the Bible is true because it's scripture, and the Spirit testifies of the truthfulness of the scriptures. At least that's what the scriptures say. And scriptures are true because the Spirit testifies of them. And I know that the Spirit testifies of them because that's what the scriptures say. And the scriptures are true because...

I got caught in the circular logic. Being a computer programmer, I drew up a dependency graph: each item depends on the items it points to. Things tend to blow up when a circular dependency is reached:

Let me explain my reasoning: every piece of Mormon Doctrine is an assertion, be it true or false. Its truthfulness depends on the truthfulness of the scriptures, where "scriptures" is defined as a canonized set of writings, General Conference talks, church publications, and words of Apostles, Prophets, and leaders when so designated by the Church as scripture.

The truthfulness of the scriptures depends on the truthfulness of two other assertions: (1) the assertion that the Spirit testifies of the truthfulness of all things, and (2) the assertion that the Spirit is designated by feelings of love, joy, peace, long-suffering, et al. These two assertions, however, are written in the scriptures; ergo they depend on the assertion that the scriptures are true, and thus begins the circular dependency.

This is where I assert that belief or non-belief is an arbitrary choice. You must choose, arbitrarily, where to jump into the circle. You must pick up an assertion, arbitrarily accept it as Truth (capital "T"), and put it in your personal truth bucket. Upon this foundational truth, you can build a set of linked truths, eventually incorporating any piece of doctrine you so desire. This is a testimony in church lingo.

Mind you, arbitrariness isn't a bad thing. It is simply a thing. You can arbitrarily choose to assign the value "true" to the assertion that the scriptures are true, and I can arbitrarily choose to assign the value "false" to the same assertion. You can't devalue my truth set, and I can't devalue yours, as it is a personal, arbitrary choice. Everyone carries their own personal "truth bucket" filled with assertions they have accepted as truth.

Once we get to this point, we must look at the pros and cons of arbitrarily choosing a truth value for a particular assertion. For my investigator in Mexico who chose to be baptized last week, it's a pretty good deal: if it's all true, great. If it's all false, what she loses (10% to tithing, time worshipping, etc) pales to what she gains: a community.

For someone who is gay, consider everything I miss out on (some thoughts here and here) if it's false and I assert that it's true.

But what if it's true, and what if I assert that it's false, thus leaving it behind? Would a loving Mormon God leave such stakes up to the uncertainty of subjective emotions? I mean, I feel the fruits of the spirit when I listen to Sarah Bareilles. Or Enya.

So, what if I can't convince myself to arbitrarily accept one of the above assertions as Truth? That's ok. I understand now why some people get up in fast and testimony meeting and say: "I don't know for certain, but I believe this is true. I hope this is true." Understanding this helps me interface better with people of backgrounds different than my own, be it sexuality, religion, faith, or anything else. I value their world view, even if I don't share it. I can see the good it does in their life. It is no longer my agenda to change, convert, persuade, or convince others but rather to understand them.

Let's step back to the idea of graduating. Maybe I am on the other side of the fence, but how I got here is a beautiful journey. It's not that I don't understand the doctrine. I do. Its truthfulness, however, is uncertain to me. And that's ok. Maybe I've been deceived my whole life by a large organization. But then again, maybe everyone in the organization truly hopes and believes in it. It's a good lifestyle, culture, and community fit for them, but not for me. I assert that God, as portrayed in Mormon doctrine and theology, would interject via a medium that is certain and undeniable if He truly were concerned about my path. I'm moving on, moving forward. My participation in the church is going to be on my terms and conditions. Maybe that sounds like a cafeteria Mormon, picking and choosing what works for me, but that might be the most sustainable solution in my case. I don't deny my past—I love and am proud of my Mormon heritage and ancestors, including the valuable lessons I've learned in my life, but I feel more genuine in my interactions with others when I don't believe that mine is the only true world view.

Now, I may be wrong in my assertion, but that's the beauty of having various world views.
It's not about being more right than everyone else but rather being more gracious myself.

Dan Bunker

Thursday, August 6, 2015

On Life, Death, and Love

YM sat in the parking lot of the relatively new church building. He had arrived ten minutes early for the funeral. He didn't like funerals—they had a way of grasping his emotions and heaving them to and fro with little regard for the consequential toll. He wasn't prepared to spend his Saturday morning among the mourning—he wasn't insensitive, it was just that he hadn't done the necessary emotional preparation and processing. YM knew the deceased and had shared pleasant company with the elderly man several times, who had lived a good, honorable life as attested to by his posterity. It was the first funeral YM had attended where the deceased had been survived by a spouse. It had a different dynamic: every time the elderly yet strong and healthy woman was referred to, all eyes were on her. Would she nod? Would she chuckle? Was she emotionally numb from exhaustion? What was going on in her mind? Was the satisfaction of over a half-century of marriage stronger than the sadness of not reaching a full century with her life-companion?

When will the loneliness start? Will it be overpowering?

YM fixed on the casket. The body of the deceased was lifeless yet etched deep with wrinkles of life's joys and sorrows, pains and pleasures. The line of attendees was overflowing with memories of grandpa, dad, husband; tears for his parting were not scarce. The queue came to a head at the deceased's head: years of deep conversations and pleasantries, once leaving lips and landing on warm ears, now summed up with kiss after kiss, left lips and landed on cold brow.

YM watched the faces of those bidding farewell. The squint, the wrinkled brow, the quivering lip. The hot, stinging tears rolling off the skin as if it were wax were a foil to reality as it lingered and sunk deep below the surface. YM's mirror neurons fired, and he, too, felt the deep stirrings of empathy, as if he were at his own grandpa's funeral.

YM didn't want to die alone. He wanted a strong, healthy, caring companion like the elderly woman had been to the deceased. YM wanted to intertwine his life with another's, like vines. He, too, wanted to one day close a chapter in his book of life, etched with over a half-century's fruits, the shared life experiences with the other vine.

YM once again sat in the parking lot of the relatively new church building with love on his mind and in his heart. Not lust but rather the deep, abiding, ephemeral love that begins with youthful beauty but accompanies the etched wrinkles of life's chisel, the love that perdures through time in memories, the love that YM had seen in several marriages—regardless of the marriage orientation.

YM left the church and drove home, determined to let love—this love that some would confuse with hedonism—guide his life.

"The greatest thing you'll ever learn, 
Is just to love and be loved in return."
-Nat King Cole, "Nature Boy"

"It won't be easy, you'll think it strange
When I try to explain how I feel
That I still need your love after all that I've done"
-Andrew Lloyd Webber, "Don't Cry for Me Argentina"

Saturday, June 6, 2015

At the Table: My Table

Credit: // License // No changes made.

YM sat at the table. He had been sitting at the it ever since he came out a year and a half ago. Running his finger along its dusty yet smooth, beveled glass edge, he contemplated everything on it. His eyes traced its encompassing perimeter. Over the long, disciplined years in the church, it had always been inculcated that staying at the table would result in a fulfilled life with a loving, committed marriage and family, and YM would be able to thrive through life on a deeper plane of emotion, connection, and love...almost like another dimension, distinct from that of the single life. YM heard the echo of countless cold cacophonic admonitions from past Priesthood pulpits: get over yourself. Stop wasting your prime courting years on foolish, ephemeral youthful pursuits. Focus on finding that eternal companion. That is the Great Plan of Happiness.

This table was familiar yet uncomfortable; he knew his place, yet he felt empty when his eyes probed the faces of the others at the table—he wouldn't find his companion here among his family and friends. YM yearned for that deeper plane of emotion, connection, and love. YM wanted to feel whole, complete. After all, it was inculcated in him from a very early age. But sitting at this table required finding a companion among those at the table or none at all; that is, that plane could only be reached by embracing the emptiness.

YM, flustered but ever stoical, lifted his gaze and glanced around him. He spied another table behind him, across the room—too distant for association yet within conversation range. He scooted his chair out into the dead space between the two tables, where nothing ventures but quick, bidirectional disapproving glances and pointing fingers. He received stealthy, uncertain glances from those at his table. He hesitated but wanted to meet some of these other people.

YM conversed, socialized, and became familiar with those at this other table. They weren't scary, evil, or trying to disrupt those at YM's table, but they were different than those at his table. YM listened to them, to their stories, to their experiences, and he identified more and more with them at the expense of friendship with some of those at his table. YM directed his focus back to his table and shared with his family the experience of meeting his new friends. Some of YM's past relationships with those at his table had been very trusting but had turned sour, and some even abusive.

YM had learned about abusive relationships from some of his friends and family: excuses, rationalizations, explanations, apologetics, and hope had once kept them tied up in these abusive relationships. He had also seen the courage in some of those closest to him, when they finally broke free and ended the relationships. Sometimes, it was healthier just to get out. They were much happier and much more stable emotionally. YM hoped that they would be among the more understanding part of the people when he explained that he, too, felt abused, over and over again by those he once trusted at the table. He was jaded, always excusing the inexcusable, refusing to examine his relationship and wellbeing at the table for fear of finding more to excuse and rationalize.

This other table seemed to welcome a wide variety of experiences, including YM's. Some of the people there even seemed to have found that deeper plane of emotion, connection, and love—the kind not typically available while single. YM felt drawn. But he feared the severance of all his friendships at his table. Would they merely classify him as "another one that left the table?" That seemed to be the unforgivable label, the one that is slapped on the chest of anyone returning to the table for a visit or to converse, the one that identifies someone who needs rescuing.

YM didn't want to be a rescue project. But how could they understand? He just wanted an open conversation between the two tables and to be free to move between them. After all, who could blame YM for wanting what was available on the outsiders' table, what had been inculcated in him all along: a deeper plane of emotion, connection, and feel whole, have a loving, committed marriage and family? That's exactly what's on the table—the other table. Might whatever is on the table for one person be on a different table for another person? Might YM's family and friends be able to change their paradigm just a little? To accommodate his worthy desire?

Dan Bunker

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Possible Public Misperception

[Tuesday Evening, 3 December 2013]

Stake President: "Possible public misperception. That's why I'm releasing you. You see, a majority of members will see your facebook post and assume that you're sexually active. And a sexually-active executive secretary in a BYU Young Single Adult ward would be a stumbling block for these members, so I'm releasing you at the end of the semester."

Young Man: "I don't think that sends the right message. Besides, I disclosed my same-sex attraction to your first councillor when he interviewed me for the calling. And my blog post clearly states my position—that I'm not sexually active. But I don't suppose that affects your decision to release me?"

Stake President: "We would have worked with you in private, one-on-one. But that was irresponsible of you to publicly announce it. YM, it's my job as Stake President to protect the name and image of the church, and to protect your salvation and the salvation of the members. I don't understand why you would want to flaunt your sexuality about. Look, YM, I'm a sexual person—I'm sexually active with my wife and have several kids—but I don't go around telling people that I'm straight. I don't post on social media that I'm straight. Maybe you're just curious—you've told me you haven't acted on your Same-Sex Attraction, so how can you know you're gay? You haven't had sex before. 

YM: "President, did you have to have sex before knowing you were straight?"

SP: "Why would you even put the label "gay" on yourself? I don't like that word; nobody should use it.

YM: "The church uses that word in its official website,"

SP: "Look, YM, you were wrong to come out on facebook like that. Didn't you think of all the ramifications that it would have? In a way, you're a spokesperson for the bishopric of your ward. You've put me in this situation, and I have to act. YM, after discussing this, and thinking back, would you still have done it?"

YM: "Well, I probably should have thought about its implications a little bit more, but, yeah, I still would have done it. SP, I've been on a mission. I spent two years teaching my investigators how to pray, how to listen for an answer, and how to recognize it when it comes. I put that to practice before posting on social media that I'm gay. I prayed and asked Heavenly Father if I should come out publicly. I didn't feel anything, so I interpreted that as a no. I then asked if I should NOT come out publicly, and again the answer was a no. Puzzled, and after having thought about it for a bit, I finally asked if it was my choice. The answer was a rush of the Spirit. A yes. I had the same feelings that I received when I asked whether the Book of Mormon is true. The same feelings that I had always received when seeking guidance from the Spirit. That's how the spirit talks to me. So I followed that answer, considered my life circumstances, and determined that I could do a lot of good by coming out publicly."

SP: "Well, YM, I don't know what to say. That personal revelation was wrong, and you were wrong to post that on social media. I'll let you finish the semester, but you'll be released from being executive secretary at the beginning of Christmas break, two weeks from now. I'll talk to your bishop and let him know. 

YM: "Am I losing my temple recommend?"

SP: "No."

YM: "Am I on some sort of church discipline?"

SP: "No."

YM: "I don't understand why I'm being released if I'm still temple-worthy."

SP: "YM, I bet you think I'm being unfair and mean. It's up to you what you do about it—you can post on social media that I'm unfair and mean—I've got a thick skin; I can take it."

YM: "No, I accept your decision, though I don't agree nor fully understand it."

SP: "Well, don't be hurt by my decision. Let's have a followup meeting in a few weeks, after break."


[Four weeks before meeting with SP]

YM, having just skyped with two of his older siblings and come out to them, posts a link to his blog on facebook and comments on the link: "Family and Friends: I am gay." He closes his laptop and sits in wonder and amazement, in terror and excitement at what he has just done. There's no going back. What happens on the internet stays on the internet. He prepares for bed, puts all his electronic devices in Do Not Disturb mode, and tries to go to sleep. He can't. It will be a different world tomorrow. Will he lose friends? Family? No electronic device nor tool can gauge the risk he feels in his bones. No gadget can record the anxiety that has seeped into every cell of his body, except maybe the bathroom scale, which indicates he's lost 8 pounds this week due to his physical and emotional stress and psych-up for this moment. Every few hours he wakes up and resists the draw to check his phone for notifications. Finally his alarm clock goes off, indicating the start of another week of school.

The whole day and for two weeks, YM receives an outpouring of love and support from friends and family. It is a tidal wave of text messages, facebook messages, emails, emotions and relieving tears, heavy and salty, that obstruct his vision and mental focus enough to interfere with his flow at work, at school, and during programming assignments and projects. He explains to his CS professors, who kindly oblige and give him some extra time to take care of things.


[Two weeks before the meeting with SP]

The Sunday after YM comes out on Facebook is a Stake Conference, which means no local Sunday Service meetings. The following takes place a week after the Stake Conference—it is the first time YM faces his YSA ward after coming out.

YM wakes up at 7am and prepares for his Sabbath day routine. He prepares and prints off meeting agendas for the 8am bishopric meeting, the 9am ward council meeting, and he invites ward individuals to give prayers for the 10:45am sacrament meeting. 

YM arrives at the meetinghouse: the university's physical facilities building turned worship house. The morning's meetings proceed typically. A few students in the ward avoid eye contact with YM. YM shrugs it off.

YM: [aside] If that's all the reaction that I get, I can live with it.

Five minutes before Sacrament meeting, and after brief pause and a deep breath, YM crosses the threshold of the meeting room (a university auditorium with stadium-style seating). Everything is normal, but it isn't. Everything is familiar, yet YM drags in an expansive, invisible elephant at his side. YM and his elephant occupy space a few rows up. A few minutes pass, and a few more people walk into the room. Sister Draper, the gospel instruction teacher and a BYU teacher-education professor, spots YM and approaches him.

Sister Draper: [locking eyes with YM and shaking head, almost in disbelief] So brave. Let me give you a hug.

YM: [sighing in relief while embracing] Thank you so much. I've needed this.

The meeting conductor gets up and begins the meeting as YM finds his seat. The meeting proceeds, but YM can't pay attention. He ruminates on his unexpected and newfound ally. A friend. No questions asked, no judgement passed, no conditions placed. Suddenly this different world becomes okay, safe. YM just needed to know that there was at least one person out there. And she just found him.


[One week before the meeting with SP]

YM repeats his Executive Secretary routine. After church, YM heads to the bishop’s office to begin coordinating three hours of interviews and settings apart with the bishopric. At the end of a physically- and emotionally-taxing interview block, at 4pm, bishop comes out of his office and addresses YM.

Bishop: "Thank you, YM, we've done good work today."

YM: [packing up] "No, thank you, Bishop. I bet you're exhausted. Get some rest and let me know of anything you need."

B: [more seriously] "Why don't you step in my office for a few minutes, and let's chat."

Both enter B's office and sit down. They've talked a few times before about YM being gay, and each time it has been an uplifting experience. Previously, YM had told B about his facebook and blog post.

B: "How has everything been since you posted on Facebook?"

YM: "Mostly positive. Nothing too negative has come from it."

B: "Listen, YM, there have been some ward members that have been concerned with your post. They have come to me asking if I knew what you have done. I told them that I was aware. Three weeks ago I thought it appropriate to mention your experience to SP. He immediately wanted to release you, but I asked him to give it some time. For three weeks I've been holding off SP, but he wants to act. I asked him to interview you, in order to get a feel for your mind and heart. YM, I have been anguishing over this. I have searched the manuals and lost sleep over this. I can't find anything in the manuals that suggests that you be released. You haven't done anything wrong. I don't entirely understand SP's desire to release you, but I support him as my priesthood leader. I want you to explain your feelings to him in an interview. Will you set one up with him?"

YM: [with a heavy heart and confused semblance] "Yes, I'll do that. Thank you, B, for all you've done."

B: "YM, whatever happens, I want you to know how much I appreciate the work you've done—you've been an excellent Executive Secretary."

[B's eyes water a little]

B: "You know, maybe we'll look back in five years and say: Why did we ever release YM?"

YM: "Thanks, B. I'll let you know how it goes."

YM drives home and ponders on his experience of coming out.

YM: [deflated, aloud to himself] "What of the assurance I have taken from the BYU honor code, that One's stated same-gender attraction is not an Honor Code issue? What of the peace I have found from, that attraction itself is not a sin and that individuals do not choose to have such attractions? What of my personal revelation, that it was my choice whether to come out publicly? What of my resolved feelings of the deep emotional battle as to whether I'd lose friends and family associations for simply coming out? I feel unwanted. I feel betrayed. Are all those statements just PR stunts which, when subpoenaed, won't stand up in my defense?"

[Just after the meeting with SP]

YM exits SP's office and the building. The icy winter air pierces YM's lungs as he gasps and shuffles through the two feet of freshly fallen snow toward his car. He gets in, and the snow-insulated world around him muffles the sound of his car door closing yet does nothing for the coursing, pounding blood in his head as he ponders the meeting that has just occurred. His snow-covered car spins its tires almost uselessly through the unplowed streets of central Provo, with YM's slow journey home mirroring the spinning gears in his head as he makes almost no progress toward understanding the reason SP gave him: Possible Public Misperception.



The Book of Mormon is all about cyclical attempts at creating a Zion community by removing damaging and false traditions. That is still what we must do today to make queer/SSA people feel welcome and comfortable among our own, no matter their choices. Whether they have done nothing wrong (in YM's case) or done something wrong and are subject to church discipline, they all have felt alone, attacked, and they deserve that one friend, like Sister Draper, that will hug them and make them feel welcome. The commandment to love our neighbor was given without conditions.

Dan Bunker