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