Friday, March 25, 2011

What A Drag!

So, Duane and I flew to NYC last weekend to attend the opening night (show and after party) of Priscilla Queen of the Desert starring our, ever illustrious and wonderful, director Will Swenson.

The show was as fabulous as expected. Just a giant barrel of good old fashioned drag queen monkey fun. Will was wonderful and brought a depth to the show, with his portrayal of a gay man who is a father and more than a one dimensional drag character, that I loved.

We also sat 5 rows in front of The Divine Miss M, 2 rows in front of Guy Pearce and next to the ever lovely Audra McDonald.

Amazing weekend. Definitely one for the books. And the blogs.

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Related Links
Facing East Website
Facing East Contribution Fund

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Responsibility

Guest Blogger: JulieAnn Carter Winward
March 2, 2011

What? Two blogs in one day? Is she too inspired? Too prolific? Is she that sadistic?

Indeed I am. All three.

If you take a gander at my sidebar, you will see the number of followers that happen to follow this blog. Some don't read all the time, some do, some come from Facebook when I post a link. Some wander here by accident; some come as friends, some as enemies. But they come here.

And I have a responsibility.

However small my particular forum, I have a truth that I feel I must shout from the rooftops and say with all of my might, mind and heart.

I would like to talk about us. You and me. Let's you and I have a conversation. Although I can't hear you, you can hear you, and that's the thing. Just when we think no one is listening to us--everyone is.

Just when we think our private thoughts are our own, we hear someone mutter them under their breath. When we feel self-loathing because our behind is too big, legs are too short, tummy too full, our daughters hear us and look into their mirrors with loathing, too.

When we cross the street at an on-coming pedestrian of a different color, our children cross with us, holding tight to our hand.

When we refer to our fellow neighbors, Americans, human beings, brothers and sisters as "they" or "those", we separate ourselves from each other, and there is no separation. We are a human family and what happens to one, happens to all, whether you choose to believe it or not.

"And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done [it] unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done [it] unto me." Matthew 25:40, King James Bible, New Testament

“When ye are in the service of your fellow beings, ye are only in the service of your God.” Mosiah 2:17, Book of Mormon

Many people will say that I use or misuse the scriptures because I am a non-believer. I say to you that I believe--I believe that we are all brothers and sisters and I know your God, your leaders, your savior, taught you to believe the same thing. I speak in the language we all understand, and I speak it with reverence, respect and gravity. I don't come to you preaching what I don't practice, and I don't come to you to ask you to speak my language.

I would like to meet with you, have a conversation with you, about something you know--love.

I know that already that there's trepidation in you. Who am I, a raving mad woman, angry, opinionated, outspoken, who am I to talk about love? What is she selling, you ask. What does she want?

A conversation with you, that's all. I want to talk about the many ways we tell ourselves that certain things are acceptable. Okay. All right. We all do it. Don't you? I do.

I went to the gym today; I can have a cookie.

I brushed my teeth last night and I'm late; I'll grab some gum.

Wrong change? Oh well, I'm late and their stuff is over-priced.

An Hispanic girl was mean to me in Jr. High school; I don't like the new employee.

My grandmother was accosted by a black man. They frighten me.

My great, great, great grandfather was owned by someone white. I don't trust them.

They start small, these things we tell ourselves, and we tell them often enough that they seep from our pores like a dingy glue, covering our skin, shading our eyes. The glue adheres to everyone we touch, including and especially our children.

And our children do one thing, no matter who they are, no matter where they are. They learn, and they grow. And what you choose to plant in them is up to you, right here, right now.

I want to have this conversation with you because my heart is breaking, and if my heart breaks, yours breaks, too. You may not see it or feel it right away, but it fissures at the core and one day, it will break and bleed near you--in you, too. A grandchild, a child, a spouse, a sibling, a parent. A friend. A neighbor.

For Judy Shepherd, it was her son. He was once a little boy, like yours, like your grandson, like your baby brother. See the light in his eyes?

For Christina Guentert, it was her friend, Tyler Clementi. You have friends, don't you? The one particular friend who can play violin like Tyler could, or guitar, or who was an amazing writer? The accomplished pianist?

For David Brown, it was his little boy [Asher]. He probably remembers the day his son was born. Do you remember that day, too? Probably one of the happiest days of his life, and your life, as well.

I know what you're thinking. I live in your head, because we are brothers and sisters and you are a good person; tragedy is tragedy, and if only...

If only these kids had been taught better.

If only they'd been born into the right church.

If only they had been born into your family.

If only they'd been born to you.

Tragedy--averted. You could have saved them. You, with your love, your wisdom, your could have saved them.

My friend, I'm sorry, there was no saving them. There was no saving them because no matter how much our parents love us, when we have a community at large who hates us, we feel alone. Parents are not there forever. We are prepared for their passing the moment we are born; we are bred and fed and taught to stand on our own so that one day, we can. We do our very best with our sons and daughters. But when others outside of that protective womb of the home get to them, there is sadly nothing you can do to save them. I know you want to; you are a good person, and I can tell.

You would never call someone a faggot around your children. You would never stoop to calling someone a dirty queer. You are not that way, and I can tell. You love the sinner but hate the sin.

But I have a responsibility to tell you that our thoughts betray us and it shows. It shows in our faces, it shows in our countenances. It shows in our choices, it shows at the ballot box. It shows and you don't know that it shows because you are a good person and surely your children can see that. But they can tell, too.

They take our unspoken words to the playground. They take our unseen expressions to church. They take our secret loathing and disgust and disappointment and they are only children without the finesse you and I possess; the dingy glue that seeps from us undetected by most is picked up by the keen and watchful eyes of our little ones, and it is brightly colored and evident to them. It's their job, you see, to watch everything you do, everything you say, everything you are, to prepare for the day when you aren't there; they watch to carry you on, carry you forward, to make you immortal. And so they learn.

If only, you say.

If only these poor souls had been taught morals. If only they had been taught the difference between right and wrong, they might have been saved. I know you wish this in your hearts. But they were taught, my friend. They were. They were taught very early on that how they felt was wrong, who they are is wrong. This is why they are dead.

But--you say....if only they had asked for help. You would have done something--anything to help these sweet little boys who remind you so much of your dear little son running up to you after you arrive home from work, running to your car as you pick them up from school, looking at you on the soccer field, so full of wonder, their eyes bright and full of excitement at all they had learned, all they want to share with you--if only.

They did ask for help. And they do. They call out for help from the grave and from the recesses of your mind as you watch the news and shudder at the tragedy and hold your little ones so close, never daring to imagine the pain their parents must face daily, forever.

They ask for your help now, at this moment. They ask in the eyes of every son and daughter who walks with a heavy heart at being different.

I don't ask you to accept the unacceptable. You have your beliefs, you have your standards and your commitment. I ask, humbly and with a fractured, broken, human heart, to love. Please, just love. Stand on the side of it. Make it heard in your homes, in your churches, in your communities, in your ballot boxes. Love, and allow God to do the rest. Allow God to winnow out the good, the bad, the ugly. It is not your burden to bear. You can avail yourself of this terrible and difficult task because I know that you know that you are to "judge not". We can all agree that we are not our brothers' judges. Can we agree to that much? Just that much? I hope so.

I don't judge you, either. I ask you. I beg you, I plead. I stand here with a heart that is broken. You are a good person, and I can tell. Your heart must be broken, too. And how can you possibly reconcile the two? Easily--you don't have to. All you are required to do is love.

All I am required to do is love. Not for tomorrow, not for the hereafter and not for eternity. Love, right here, right now.

And so you see, I have a responsibility. And now--so do you.

“He inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none.” Book of Mormon 2 Nephi, 26:33

"There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear." Holy Bible, New Testament John 4:18

"We take turns, then, don’t we? When you are caught on any plains where love is not, I will gather what I have and bring what I can. And when I have used up all my love and am stranded in the cold, I will watch for you to appear with fresh supplies. That way we can make it, I think, all of us. We can be sufficiently creative and sufficiently kind that we will draw circle upon circle upon circle, bringing each other in, leaving no one out, joining, linking, enlarging, until the pattern of the whole human family, seen through the Eye of God, is complete." –No More Goodbyes: Circling the Wagons Around Our Gay Loved Ones by Carol Lynn Pearson

Monday, February 28, 2011

Will Swenson "Butch Femme"

Great article in New York Theater Magazine about our director Will Swenson and his role in "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" - hitting Broadway next month.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

We Can Change History

By: Carol Lynn Pearson
(Printed in the Salt Lake Tribune, August 17, 2008 Op-ed)

Reading the various reviews of the new LDS Church-authorized book, Massacre at Mountain Meadows, prompts me to stand as witness for another tragic killing of a group of people in our community for which--when we have the benefit of history--we will be deeply ashamed.

The insidious thing about this killing is that we manage--though it would break our hearts to know it--to get the unfortunate ones to pick up the gun and kill themselves. I speak of the suicides of our LDS gay brothers (occasionally sisters), in a number that far exceeds the 120 members of the Fancher party. Each victim at Mountain Meadows had walking beside him a man poised to raise his gun and shoot. History will show that the gay men of whom I speak had walking beside them a dark shadow impersonating God, a shadow that gave them misinformation about who they were, misinformation that most of us now acknowledge was both dead wrong and deadly: “Homosexuality is often caused by masturbation...may lead to bestiality...caused by selfishness...electric shock will set you right...a good woman ...reparative therapy...fasting and would be better off at the bottom of the Great Salt Lake with a millstone around your neck...”

Our current discussion of this issue reflects better science and a more generous spirit, but too many deaths continue. Gay youth attempt suicide three times more often than their straight peers. According to an article in the Deseret Morning News of April 23, 2006, Utah leads the nation in suicides of men age 15-24. I recently received an email (quoted with permission) from a woman in Utah who said, “I'm in agony over the suicide death two months ago of my youngest son, Marshall, age 25, a gay student who was a senior in chemical engineering at the U of U. He knew all about spreading love, but didn't feel enough in return to keep him going...On my refrigerator I have a package of flower seeds marked, in his writing: 5/1. That was the day he was going to plant them. He didn't make it that long, so I'll plant them for him--next spring.”

The stories keep coming–--a woman in my ward just told me of two gay nephews who both took their lives–--a woman in the airport recently told me of three LDS gay boys who killed themselves in her neighborhood in Bountiful. The dozens of stories I personally know are the tip of the awful iceberg. I think of Stuart Matis, an LDS celibate gay man who shot himself on the steps of the stake center in Los Altos as a direct result of the intense religious rhetoric around a “protection of marriage” initiative similar to the one proposed in California today.
One of the historians of Mountain Meadows, Ron Walker, says that he’s “come to see the massacre as a cautionary tale in making judgments about those who are different,” and that the story “is a case-study in how not to apply religion and how one should apply true religion in one's own life.”

I believe, with these historians, that we LDS people are hungry for the truth and that we want to apply true religion in our lives. I believe with Anne Frank that people are really good at heart and I know that there is no better heart than the Mormon heart, leader and member alike.

I believe that if the rider had reached Salt Lake in time, Brigham Young would have done what he could to avert the massacre in southern Utah. Many messengers today, of which I am one, have ridden in with reports and pleas for help regarding the ongoing self-slaughter of so many of our best and beautiful young men. For many it is too late. For others--if you and I care enough--we can change history.

[Carol Lynn Pearson is a native Utahan who lives in California. She is the author of the stage play, “Facing East,” the story of an LDS couple dealing with the suicide of their gay son. Her most recent book is No More Goodbyes: Circling the Wagons around Our Gay Loved Ones.]



Carol Lynn,

This morning I read your article in the Salt Lake Tribune. As a 22 year-old gay Mormon I have spent many years questioning if suicide would be the best option. Your article beautifully articulated an issue I ponder on every day. I was grateful that there are those that know how to tactfully represent the LDS gay issues. I pray that the publishing of your article will have an impact on the LDS community. If not officially in the very least, culturally.

Thank you for the work you do on my behalf, and the thousands of my silent struggling comrades. It is painful to sit in church every Sunday, too insecure to voice my concern on the subject.


Very dear N,

Thanks so much for this beautiful appreciation. You are precisely why I wrote that editorial, and why I have spent so much of my life addressing this difficult question. Of course the future will be more welcoming for our gay brothers and sisters than our past has been, but it is inexcusable that we are moving so slowly. That you should feel such pain is so very wrong. I encourage you to do what you feel you can to move the conversation along. You might send in a letter to the editor saying essentially what you wrote below. You can even sign it something like--Hoping for the Day I Will Not Have to be
We need you here. No more thoughts of not sticking around. There are many people rooting for you. Including me–and all the angels.
Much love,

Carol Lynn


(From the comments on the article, printed online:)

Thank you Carol Lynn for being such an amazing heroine in this new pioneer journey. You saved my life from suicide many years ago and I honor you once again for standing so tall and strong to be a witness on behalf of the misunderstood, the hated, the feared of our society. This article made me weep tears of sorrow for those who have fallen, tears of relief that I made it through the wilderness, and tears of hope for all my LGBT brothers and sisters in the LDS Church who continue to struggle to be loved, heard, understood, accepted, and celebrated for the many gifts they bring to the table. I stand with you in speaking Truth to Power. Bless you!
Love you tons, you know!!



Suicide and Sodomy: Public Forum Letter

Regarding Carol Lynn Pearson's "We can change history for gay LDS" (Opinion, Aug. 17), we should certainly intervene whenever possible to help people avoid the awful choice of suicide. But Pearson's implication for Mormons seems to be: We must sanction individuals indulging in sodomy without guilt or consequence; otherwise, they're going to commit suicide and their deaths will be on our heads. That sounds like blackmail to me, and I don't accept it.

Within Mormonism, we're all responsible for upholding the standards of the gospel. I consider it our responsibility to accept, love and fellowship same-sex-attracted people who want to work on resisting their temptation and stay in harmony with Mormonism. However, we're under no obligation, moral or otherwise, to embrace those who expect Mormons to repent of our alleged bigotry and change the doctrine and commandments to accommodate sodomy.

Christopher Bigelow
Provo, UT

(Printed a few days later:)

I believe there is something that may not be well understood by Brother Bigelow and perhaps many others. The work that needs to be done on behalf of our gay brothers and sisters pertains to all of them, no matter what decision they may make regarding their sexuality. Think of a tree. One branch represents those who choose celibacy and maintain LDS Church requirements. Another branch is those who decide to enter into a gay partnership. Another is those who make the decision to marry someone of the opposite sex. But all of these branches share the same trunk, and I believe it’s clear that in general we do a terrible job of helping these young people through the experience of confronting their homosexual feelings, no matter which branch they ultimately choose. Kind language in pamphlets is barely a beginning in counteracting a religious culture in which the very air we breathe is charged with condemnation and revulsion on this subject, and which makes many young people feel, “I would rather die than see the look on my parents’ faces if I tell them I’m one of those.” The suicide statistics tell us that, sadly, many of our dear young gay people do prefer death.

Carol Lynn Pearson
Walnut Creek, CA