Thursday, January 27, 2011

Road to Authenticity part 3: Summer on the Cape

It was only two weeks after my baptism that I left to go on an internship in Cape Cod.  I remember the bishop talking with me about protecting the seed of faith that will get stronger as my testimony builds.  I think he was afraid that I might lose faith being away and not receiving support from the community that I came to know while investigating the church.  I’d have to take on a whole slew of people outside the church not crazy about me being mormon and going to a new mormon community that may not be thrilled about my outness of being gay.  So my bishop’s fears weren’t without foundation but like it was with me coming out as gay I received an answer that I was to join this church.  I told him that no person or entity could sway me away from the church anymore than they could in making me straight.  Apparently there were also new member lessons I needed to learn that I never received until about a year later when I was helping teach them to a new member that I was home-teaching, so yeah.

God did give me aid in this new endeavor that I hadn’t counted on.  The manager for who I was doing the internship under said that I could bring another student with me and the student I chose was the one who went to the Florida conference with me in January and she goes by the name Fifi in America.  She didn’t have a license and I didn’t want to be the only driver to drive to Cape Cod from Indiana so we took my best friend along to spend some time in New York and then Fifi and I would drive to the Cape from there and he would fly back.    My best friend whose who I call Andy that I have been friends with since 2nd grade had been a bit saddened when I became mormon since I was just going to turn 21 the following June and although he didn’t turn 21 in December all hopes of us drinking together were shattered, but a trip to /new York gave us plenty of time to work that out.  I also would like to add that he was also a great support when I came out and we have stayed friends from 2nd till today and I have been truly blessed to have a friend like him.

During our road trip I learned that Fifi who is from Shangai, China came to the U.S. as an exchange student at a high school in Utah.  Her host family was Mormon and though she never became a member she did attend services with them. She had known I was gay and when I told her I had just joined the church two weeks ago there was nothing but support from her.  We talked about her experiences with her family and I shared my experiences with investigating the church.She had been great support for me during my time on Cape Cod. 

We did our internship at the Wianno Club in Osterville, Massachusetts.  We stayed on the property in these dorms were the employees live.  Most of the employees that work there come there on visas from various parts of the world that included South Africa, Romania, Bulgaria, Costa Rica, Singapore, Poland, and Macedonia.  It was an amazing experience to work and live together with so many diverse individuals.  Of course this led to a lot of employee parties that were a lot of fun and a unique experience to say the least.  I still remember the music wars between the gypsy like music of Bulgaria and Romania fighting for play time with reggeaton from the Costa Ricans.  There were drinking each time and I had plenty of opportunities to get into discussions with people about why I don’t drink and pretty much everyone at least understood my choice.  Fifi helped back me up and throughout our time we experienced a lot together I was fortunate to be traveling with such an open minded person that was open to getting out in the world and trying new things.  

We both were unique oddities on the Cape there weren’t any other person we met from China and really aside from the Singaporeans we worked with not really any Asians in sight.  Fifi loved it though, she loved that she stood out as an individual more and that a lot of people took interest in her being from Shanghai, in the area I too was developing that sense having a strong sense of individuality. 

I remember my 21st birthday consisted of a surprise banana cake on the beach with Fifi and the Singaporeans and then almost everyone came together under the basement of the dorms were they threw a party for me.  There were a lot of poles supporting the upper floor and one thing about me I had failed to mention was that I love to dance and though I didn’t drink I sure danced like I was drunk it felt kind of like I have reached a milestone in my life and I worked hard to get it and I’m just going to let go and celebrate.  Thus the party ensued with pole dancing while beer was flying everywhere so although I didn’t drink one drop on my 21st I sure reeked of alcohol on my 21st not that I had planned to. 
I had met a lesbian couple who were great friends to me.  They would put my authenticity to the test that’s for sure and they would always be getting on me for drinking Coca-Cola, but I had drank that beverage since I was little , and that it was more of a health advisory than a covenant.  These two were both leos which really showed with both of them as they always wanted things there way which would cause a lot of arguments between them, but they would come together after each one and they didn’t care whether people were around or not.  I had a lot of fun hanging out with them.  They treated me has I wanted to be treated and I had my voice with them that is what made theses two really good friends.  Aside from Fifi these two were the closest of the friends I made on the Cape and those three would be of great aid to me when tragedy would strike. 

  I had started attending the ward there and Fifi came along with me and the ward was very warm and welcoming as it had been in Indiana.  I had looked forward to interacting with the ward members more, but unfortunately I would have only been able to attend a few Sundays till my summer would take a turn for the worst,  the cause was me getting into an accident with a motorcyclist.  To this day I hate talking about it and I really don’t want to spend too much time on the details so in short there were two passengers, they had been flown from the bike, they both survived, they suffered minor injuries one passenger suffered broken bones, the motorcycle was totaled, it happened near midnight so I was lucky I had people in my car and people in another car that was fallowing behind to help detour oncoming traffic from the wreck,  my cars axel was bent and had to be repaired, I was charged with reckless driving for which I had to go to court for, I had to work with the repair mechanics, work with my insurance, get a lawyer, and get my court appointments. 

I was without a car and very saddened that I had almost caused the death of two individuals.  The church was a 30 min drive from where I was at and given the current situation the less people I had to communicate this event to the better; this also prevented me from experiencing more of the Cape, getting involved in the GLBTQ community, and getting involved with the church.  I was eventually able to regain my bearings and get hold of the situation but many opportunities lost as I was without a car till about a week before I had to leave the Cape and my court case didn’t wrap up till 2 days after I got my car back which the verdict was all my charges would be dropped provided nothing else happens for at least a year.  After the trail I could finally breathe easy though in just a few days I had to head back to Indiana to start my junior year.

Cape Cod was a time of trials to see whether I could handle a life lived authentically and out loud.  I stood by my values through it all and though a tragedy happened that prevented further growth in that area for the rest of my summer, the experience was invaluable as a whole to show me how precious life is and how one split second could threaten to change that and although sometimes freak accidents come along and tragedies will occur it is certainly worth the effort to take steps to prevent as many as you can. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Catholic=>Gay Catholic=>Gay Mormon?!?!

Sorry this post is a bit long but there was a lot to cover...Enjoy!

When I got back from Switzerland it didn’t take me long to come out to my friends and family.  As I mentioned before I was the only one in my life that seemed to have a problem with it,  in fact my friends reaction was “of course!”, and I remember my mom’s reaction when I had my dad tell her that one of her sons were gay (I have 2 brothers)  “oh…it’s Eric isn’t it?”.  So the process was rather quick and painless my parent’s only concern was for my safety. 

After I came out to everyone I went to discover more about the GLBTQ community through the Purdue Queer student Union and Pride Lafayette.  When I first went to the office I met three individuals that welcomed me and we had a good discussion, they were actually members of a gay fraternity.  They invited me to go to the Big Gay Callout which introduced me to a whole bunch of queer friendly organizations.

 At this callout I had met the 2 persons that were crucial in my decision to join the Mormon church in the months that would follow and they have helped developed me to the authenticity advocate I am today, and their names are Kay Johnson and Chris Kase.  We had only talked briefly at the callout and I have seen them at the queer student union meetings, but it wasn’t till next semester that I would get to know them through the organization that they would create that semester “Get Real About Discrimination”.  2008 will prove to be the most developmental years of my life that will pretty much set the foundations of who I will become in the following year.  This was certainly a golden year for me.

2008 started for me with the second Big Gay Callout.  Kay got up and presented the Get Real About Discrimination support group (GRAD).  At that moment it was just an idea she had.  Nothing was made for it officially and she didn’t know how it would run.  She was requesting support to help develop it and I signed on.  (I couldn’t make it to the first planning meeting I remember because I had a conference in Florida where I would get to know one student in HTM that will turn out to be a great friend especially in the coming summer).  I believe it was two weeks before the conference that I came out of my Spanish class on one of the coldest days in January and I saw to figures bundled up and looking around and since I have a bad habit of making eye contact and I felt that they earned someone to talk to in this freezing weather.   We talked for longer than I would’ve liked since I forgot my hat and was shaking all over I eventually had to stop them and set up a meeting time where we could speak in doors.

Around that time I was planning on ways I could come out to my catholic church, the priest we had in my family’s church was very conservative and had hopes for me to go into the priesthood so it wouldn’t be an easy conversation.  So when I met the missionaries I thought it might be good practice to get to know them, come out to them, and navigate through their reactions.

After the conference I went to the Following GRAD meetings.  Kay did a lot of work on it and even created a good script that the chair person would use to run the meeting.  At the second planning meeting there was this girl named Danielle who made the GRAD flyer that in the background had all these things a person could feel discriminated against with the center reading “Need A Voice?”  That was the last time we saw her.  The meeting following that Kay, Chris, and I decided we would try it out and we ran a test and would share about how we felt discriminated against.  I didn’t know what to share no one had directly discriminated against me in fact I felt that I had nothing but support.  When Chris shared her experience of going through a cashier line and the clerk asked her what she was going to do for valentine’s day with her husband (Chris is about 50 so the clerk probably assumed she was married) chris really didn’t know what to say.  Something clicked when she shared her experience.  

I expanded my view on discrimination from the more direct obvious discrimination in the news to the more subtle that is integrated in society,  I believe the first time I shared was about how I discriminated against myself.  There wasn’t a GRAD meeting after where we didn’t hold a sharing and every meeting to this day I always had something to share.  That whole semester it would just be the three of us who attended but we were alright with that.

During  this time I began my investigation of the church.  I got to know the mormon church and I learned the importance of personal testimonies and modern revelations and a whole slew of other aspects of the gospel I have not heard before.  The more I learned, got involved in, and prayed about the more I felt drawn to it.    The missionaries were excellent; they weren’t the play it by the book type they actually acted based on their testimony and were really great to speak with.  I shared my experiences at GRAD and was finding has I spoke honestly of what I felt I became more and more aware that I was strongly relating to the church.  

As a catholic, although I was committed I felt that the majority of the congregation didn’t really participate in the community, I felt to a lot of people it was just a ceremony you sit through every Sunday .  I never really gotten to  know the majority of people just those that got involved and every Sunday was just seeming like the same old go through the rituals, and I was changing into a person that needed more and I was beginning to believe that God leading me to a new direction.

I was finding I would go out of my way to spend time with the missionaries like signing up to feed them which we would go out to eat because I still lived with my family to save money on costs but the missionaries weren’t welcomed.   It wasn’t long before both my family and the QSU knew I was investigating a new church and it was the Mormon church.  Everyone’s first question was “is this a GlBTQ friendly church?” my answer was “no, not at all, in fact it its views on it is equal to catholic but the culture makes it even more difficult.”  At this point everyone liked it cause I had told them I plan to come out as gay and see the reaction which I was, but a lot has changed has I learned more of the church and it changed from coming out to practice for when I came out to my catholic church to come out to see whether I could still be a member.   I was receiving strong feelings that I could grow a lot in this church but I can only do so by staying true to that revelation I received back in Switzerland.

I was aware of the suicides of gay members and of shock therapies in the past and I took all of this into consideration as I prayed about the church.  There were gay friendly religious organizations on campus that I knew of like the Episcopal church and the Wesley foundation both of which I still interacted with when I became mormon.  I had received the feeling that it would be a good time to come out to the missionaries.  And so I did and I went on about my experience that got me to that point.  They were very caring and was amazed at my honesty and said they don’t quite know what to do about it so they referred me to the bishop.   

He listened to my story and actually complimented me on my righteousness.  He told me that there would be no problem about being honest and open he could not vouch for the members of course and said some might find it strange, but that was all I needed to hear, it may not be ideal but I can have my voice in the church and members would know me for me.  I relayed all my experiences each GRAD meeing (sharers can share about anything it doesn’t even have to do with discrimination even though mine often does).
 I remember at one point Kay was sharing about how she felt discriminated against and this diversity education session where they were talking about Trans individuals struggles and to Kay said they made her feel that being trans was her struggle that she was trans and kay said “No I don’t struggle with being trans at all, it is society that is struggling with it.” 

From what Kay said, I had realized that I don’t struggle with being Gay and I don’t feel I would struggle with being mormon.  It is the mormon church that struggles with me being queer and the queer community struggles that I may become mormon, I though realized I see no struggle within myself about being a gay mormon and quite frankly I think I would find it to be quite awesome.  I won’t have other people put me in a box so that they may feel comfortable around me at the cost of me losing opportunities to find essential parts of myself and grow authentically I leave their problems to themselves to hash out I have already overcame them.  I have no problem being gay the church may, I have no problem being mormon my family, friends, and queer community may but those will be there problems.  I am so thankful to GRAD for offering me a space to bring all of me together and speak openly and in turn allowed me to meet two individuals that could understand my choice.

My interactions with church members and the missionaries really got interesting after that.  I remember I was pretty hard on them for being late they said that was mormon time and I remember after I came out to them I told them it probably wouldn’t be that I’m gay that I won’t join, if anything it would be that you people are always late and I’m a person that shows up early.  There was a bunch of moments worthy of being a scene in the cinemas.  I remember hosting a table for Day of Silence a GLBTQ awareness day were all allies wouldn’t speak to reflect how the GLBTQ community is often silenced more information at  The missionaries came by one was visiting they saw me and went see what I was doing I couldn’t speak but I handed them a pamphlet.  In addition to this there was a free bible table right next to us and we exchanged our day of silence pamphlet and they gave me a free bible again couldn’t speak to them and they were actually quite pleasant about it.  I waved bye to the missionaries and to this day wondered about the conversation they had after they left.   A girl by the name of Claire was getting involved with the Queer Student Union and she was a very strong activist that promoted communication of the QSU to other diversity groups such as the black, latino, and native american cultural centers.  The student’s awareness of the QSU widely spread because of her. 

  I believe it wasn’t long  after meeting the Bishop that, like in Switzerland, I received my answer to join the church and I knew then there was no stopping it. So I found myself inviting people to my baptism this included peole of the queer community.  Funny thing happened at my baptism though I was to be the first person this one missionary baptized and I remembered we had to do it three times because the first he said the words wrong the second the cloth came up.  Everyone that wasn’t a member thought it was because I was gay.  The bishop said to me that this was the most non-members thay had seen attend a baptism (probably the first an out Trans person came to).  I can’t begin to tell you how happy I was giving my baptismal speech to a gathering of queers and mormons it has ever remained a highlight of my life.

So that how I became a gay Mormon my story will continue with the life I lead as a gey mormon and it has been an amzing one thus far and I look forward to sharing it!
I will be at the Big Gay Callout promoting GRAD in two days, its an exciting feeling to know that just three years ago I was listening to Kay’s idea about it and now I’m running it at Purdue and she at IU.  It is also sad since this will be my Last Big Gay Callout at Purdue.
Here is a website with information about the GRAD group for further information you can contact myself or Kay Johnson

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Swiss Experience

In the summer of 2007 I was with a group of HTM students and two Professors in Switzerland,  I had traveled before with a group to Australia and that was when I developed a love for travel and I learned how fun it was to travel in a group.  The group that went to Switzerland was really amazing, we never really formed cliques and we came together as a whole group a lot.  One person stood out to me that kept to himself a lot.  At this time I was still a very closed person so I in a way related to him and I was attracted to this guy in both a physical and mental way.  What was also happening at this time was I had reached my peak of disparity of being in the closet.  I had grown further from god and was beginning to even get spiteful of him.  I had met so many great people but to them I felt I was just the generous, sweet boy that was called when someone needed something but never to just hang out with and why would they I never really shared anything personal. 

I tried to get to know that guy and was eventually seen as clingy to be hanging around and I eventually got to the point where I annoyed him. This was pretty much the last straw; I was tired of trying to overcome this so called struggle at the cost of apparently being no one significant to anyone not my friends back in the states and not to anyone in the group, no one knew me because I barely knew myself too much off my effort was spent putting down my gay side.  I decided to do something one night I hadn’t before and that was to pray without the filter of my religion to cloud god’s answer to me it was going to come strictly from my heart and interpreted by my faith in the spirit.  I was staying on the island of Le Bouveret at the time and I went down to the docks alone that night (which it being Switzerland I was lucky, had it been any other place I probably would’ve got mugged).  

It was really a beautiful sight not one person, a whole bunch of swans swimming by and a view of the city of Montreux on another island on the other side.  To sum it all out I poured out all my frustration, love, anger, sadness, hope ect., Into a prayer.  I then received my answer to simply be true to myself and not give into the fear that has kept me as an extreme introvert to everyone. I didn’t just receive an answer, but I also received this courage to go forward with what I felt I had to do to both redeem my relationship with God and be the person I am. I was so happy I was dancing all along the bay.  I wasn’t  100% certain that being honest and true meant I was to be openly gay so I decided to see if my relationship with god and my life as a whole would improve if I came out to the Swiss study abroad group starting with the guy I was attracted to.

I actually came out to him while we were visiting a castle on a small island.  It took some time to build up the courage I had told him prior that there was something important I wanted to tell him, which did make it a little easier when the time came.  It was like a balloon was swelling in my stomach and kept getting bigger till the words I’m gay came out and then it all just deflated and I felt an enormous weight lift from me.  His reaction was that of great support and I found myself sharing much about myself I kept in for so long.  After I came out for the first time it was like rolling downhill once started you can’t stop.  It took only the following day for just about everyone in the group to know it.  I had been able to be open to everyone about my struggles in thinking I had one.  My study abroad experience, my relation to God, and my life has a whole had definitely improved.  There was no going back for me.  

Thursday, January 6, 2011

It Starts: Journey to Authenticity

I had actually admitted to myself that I was attracted to men by age 13 since then I viewed it as a trial to be overcome to bring me closer to god.  At that time I viewed the greatest blessings in life were to be gained by overcoming struggles, I still believe that today with the difference being that it is important to know what is the struggle.  For example I eventually learn that  gay=struggle (not true),  gay=blessing true, to be true to all of my parts that make up this unique child of god in a world that would try to have me cut off parts so that I may fit into one of their boxes=struggle (True).  How do I know? one view brought me further from god, people and caused me to crawl into a shell,  while the other brought me closer to god , people and the desire to be an active caring human  for him and his people.  The following is the start of a memoir of the series of events that took a closeted, catholic, crowd pleasing, introvert and turned him into an out gay, mormon, that doesn’t care if he offends the crowd, extrovert who is working to live his life authentically and continue to learn more about himself and helping others do the same by being an advocate for authenticity. 
It will start from my senior year in high school 05-06 and will finish to the present day (5th year senior at Purdue University).

A Priest Hopeful Goes to College

 I was catholic growing up. In my family my mom, my little brother, and myself where the big church goers in the family with my older brother and dad less of the church going type but growing up we would always go Saturday evening.  I had been pretty active in the church during my high school years and was president of the youth council.  I had been very attracted to the priesthood at that time and looked like a likely candidate to the clergy of that church.  I had no attraction to woman and had a great love for God so it seemed to me like an obvious choice. (which it is my theory that a lot of gay men in the catholic church feel that the priesthood is their calling just on the fact that they’re gay which may lead to a false calling and great remorse on the priest part and might have led to the sexual abuse of children and may be a reason why a good portion was boys, so in a way my heart goes out to them had my circumstances been different who knows if I could’ve wound up in a similar situation, I am thankful that that was not the case). 
During my senior year in high school I developed an interest in the Hospitality and Tourism industry and I found out that Purdue University offered that kind of program and is actually #1 in the nation for it.  I remember one of the youth members say that they I had thought I was going to go on my way to become a priest and I remember the advisor saying that it would be good for me to have the college experience and I might be called to serve one of the churches that also serve as a tourist destination for Catholics.  That was the last memory I have of me active in my old church.  I started my first semester in the fall of 2006 and both that semester and the semester after that were good academic semesters for me and I really got into the industry of hospitality.  One of my goals during my year in college was to take a study abroad trip to Spain since I was also minoring in Spanish.  I went to a study abroad fair particular to the Hospitality and Tourism Management program (HTM) were I found a study abroad trip to Switzerland for the summer of 2007 that would offer me 9 credit hours.  I could not find a good program for spain at the time and I was interested in the Swiss Program as it was one of those this year only offer.  I had traveled outside the country before and loved it so I was just happy that I will be able to get out and travel again.  I didn’t know at the time that this would be a trip that would change my course in life forever.

Sunday, January 2, 2011


Hello everyone, I am very excited to be starting my own blog.  I have decided to write this blog to do three things:
1.  Share my story that explains how how I became who I am
2.  Share my experiences in being true to myself in a world that consist of societies that have very limited views on what people can or should be.
3. To give my opinions on things concerning being authentic.

I will be starting my story in a series of post.  It will start of like a typical in the closet gay and religious kid, but I will tell you it will get very different when you get to the part where I come out of the closet and then I run into the LDS church and join it as on out gay person.

I hope to get real with all of you!