Sunday, June 28, 2015

Marriage Equality and the Gay "Outsider" Culture

I read an article in the New York Times on Friday about the demise of the so-called gay “Outsider” culture. It touched a nerve.

The basic thrust of the piece is that the increasing acceptance of gays and lesbians in our society, culminating in Friday’s Supreme Court ruling, has resulted in the decline of a gay culture that thrived in the wake of Stonewall. It was an “outsider” culture that was defined by oppression from general society and, later, by the devastation of AIDS. It was a counter-culture that celebrated being gay within a protective community that faced a hostile environment. 

It was also a culture that created barriers and stereotypes, both within the gay world and in society at large. Because of this, I welcome its demise. 

Both Mark and I grew to maturity in the 70’s. We both knew we were sexually attracted to men. But unlike others of our generation who found their way to San Francisco or New York or Los Angeles, we did not have the courage to come out. Furthermore, we each looked at gay culture – or what we perceived it to be – and thought, “I’m not like those people. If that is what it means to be gay, then I’m not gay.” 

And so we stayed in the closet, as did many others. “Gay culture,” as it then existed became a barrier instead of an invitation.

Decades later, I am glad that the situation is very different. Because of society’s increased acceptance of gays and lesbians, young people – as well as older closeted men and women – feel safer in coming out and are much less likely to feel that, in doing so, they have to fit into some kind of mold in order to “get into the club.” They can be both gay and themselves, just like heterosexuals can be straight and be themselves. 

There are no stereotypes of what a straight person is or should be. Thankfully, we are coming fully into an age where the same applies to gays and lesbians.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Mixed-Orientation Marriages: Going Insane Inside

A little over a month ago, I republished a blog post about mixed-orientation marriages that had been originally posted on my old blog in 2011. It was about a man named "James" who described what his mixed-orientation marriage was like.

Yesterday, "Jeff" left a comment on that post. In order to give this comment the exposure it deserves, I am posting it here in its entirety.


I can't help but wonder why more people have not responded to this post. I would love to see the original replies. 

Thank you so much for reposting this. James' story is exactly mine. To a tee, with the exception that my wife has not caused me to be disfellowshipped. Might I share a few thoughts as I read this today?:

Today is June 26, 2015---a momentous day in LGBT history and equality. As I heard the announcement that gay marriage is now legal, I cried. Tears of joy fell from my eyes for quite some time as I realized the magnitude of the decision to allow same-sex couples to marry. After the elation of the moment passed, I sat back and looked at my current situation. I am a gay man, married to a woman, with three beautiful children. I live each day under the guise that I am just like everyone else. I've done everything that the church says that I'm supposed to do. Like I say, my story is just like James'. He did an excellent job of describing the emotions, intentions and reasons for his life decisions. Mine were exactly the same. 

So here I am on this beautiful day, so happy that gay marriage is now legal in our country. And it will literally have no impact on my life, as long as I continue the status quo. So I find myself faced with this question: Why do I continue life as a gay man who lives each day as though he is in hiding?....especially when the rest of the world seems to be progressing more and more towards acceptance of homosexuality and understanding of people like me? Why do I let my church, my family, my wife and even myself squash me down as though in a vise? 

The answer is, and always has been, my children. I can deal with the church rebuking me, my family chastising me, and my wife giving me hell if I were to leave her, but I don't know if I can leave my children. Sure, I would still be in their lives, but their world would be crushed. And their father would be the one who threw down the hammer. Compounding things, my parents divorced when I was little. I never grew up with a dad, really. He lived on the other side of the country, so I never saw him. It devastated me. How could I do the exact same thing to my children?

On the other hand, I am going insane inside. I am quickly dying. My ability to keep my mask up for the world to see is waning. I feel that my children would see a much healthier father if I completely came out, divorced my wife, and moved on with my life. 

So, today's decision by the Supreme Court is a cause for celebration. I wonder if it will be enough to convince myself that accepting gay marriage in my own heart, truly, means no longer being a hypocrite. No longer staying married to a woman. No longer telling myself that my children would hate me forever if I divorced their mother. No longer telling myself that my children would hate me if I chose to marry a man instead. 

In the end, my children's love is the only love I care most about.


Please, anyone who reads this who has been or is currently in a mixed-orientation marriage, leave a comment for Jeff to lend him support and counsel.

I am the first to say that each mixed-orientation marriage is different and that I respect the decisions of each man in such marriages as to how they deal with their particular situation. That being said, Jeff, here are my thoughts.

I was once, in a sense, where you are now. However, my situation was a bit different. I never planned to come out, and my marriage was already on life-support when events propelled me out of the closet. I was willing to continue to try to work on our marriage, but my former wife was not. 

I had already reached a point, shortly before coming out, where I realized that we'd probably all be a lot happier if we divorced - me, her, our children. Like you, my parents were divorced when I was young. I never wanted to divorce. But it happened.

Though there have been some difficult times for everyone involved over the last five years, I don't regret the decisions I made. After 40 years, I was able to live my life authentically and happily. I met a man with whom I fell deeply in love, and I have experienced more happiness during these past four years that I ever would have thought possible. 

Several of my older children have expressed gratitude to my husband for facilitating the happiness they see in their father - something they rarely saw as they were growing up. These same children have also expressed gratitude for the example I set of choosing to live my life authentically. They have made the same decision and are experiencing their own happiness as a result.

As to my younger children, though I don't live with them, they know I love them. They see me happy. They experience the love of my husband. They see Mark and I together. They see the love between us. Just the other day, as Mark and I shared a hug and a kiss, my adolescent daughter said, "Awwww, true love."

I understand the desperation you feel, Jeff. I understand what it's like to feel dead inside. I understand the fear you feel when you contemplate what your children might experience in the event of a divorce. But I ask you to consider this: a parent's profound unhappiness affects his children in ways that can be deep and long-lasting. If you are dying inside, can you be the best father you can be?

Friday, June 26, 2015

Gems from Justice Kennedy's Majority Opinion

I just finished skimming Justice Kennedy's majority opinion in today's historic decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the country. The following passages from that opinion are gems that I gleaned from this first reading.

"The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times."

"The limitation of marriage to opposite-sex couples may long have seemed natural and just, but its inconsistency with the central meaning of the fundamental right to marry is now manifest. With that knowledge must come the recognition that laws excluding same-sex couples from the marriage right impose stigma and injury of the kind prohibited by our basic charter."

"The right to marry is fundamental as a matter of history and tradition, but rights come not from ancient sources alone. They rise, too, from a better informed understanding of how constitutional imperatives define a liberty that remains urgent in our own era."

"Many who deem same-sex marriage to be wrong reach that conclusion based on decent and honorable religious or philosophical premises, and neither they nor their beliefs are disparaged here. But when that sincere, personal opposition becomes enacted law and public policy, the necessary consequence is to put the imprimatur of the State itself on an exclusion that soon demeans or stigmatizes those whose own liberty is then denied."

"The dynamic of our constitutional system is that individuals need not await legislative action before asserting a fundamental right. The Nation’s courts are open to injured individuals who come to them to vindicate their own direct, personal stake in our basic charter. An individual can invoke a right to constitutional protection when he or she is harmed, even if the broader public disagrees and even if the legislature refuses to act."

"No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right."

Today, I am proud to be an American!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Our Last Day on Maui

Wednesday was our last day on Maui. We packed up everything from the condo and headed to the beach, where the kids immediately started looking for crabs. Without their boogie boards and sand toys, they got bored after an hour or so. But after an early lunch, they headed back out into the water and happily played for several more hours.

We then headed to the other side of the island to show them Hookipa where they watched a couple of dozen young people, some no older than the kids, surfing.

None of the Quads had been able to find a souvenir that they liked until we went over to the other side of the parking lot and examined the carvings this guy was making. Three of them found something they liked with their remaining allowance, each carving inscribed with their name and "Maui 2015." They couldn't have found better souvenirs.

Of course, they had to have Hawaiian shave ice in Paia before we headed back towards the airport.

We more or less survived the overnight flight to San Francisco.

By the time we arrived in Salt Lake, they were ready to collect our checked bag and go home.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

A Tribute to the Kids

The kids had another great day at the beach yesterday. There were the inevitable moments when they terrorized each other of course, but those moments were few compared to how long they played together or separately for four hours.

I've written in the past few days of trials with the kids, but I owe it to them to say that, overall, they've been real troopers. They took their first flights on an airplane - including a 5-1/2 hour one - in stride and were very well behaved. We received compliments from three different flight attendants over the course of the two flights on how well-mannered our children are.

Then, as I've written, they embraced the ocean as if they'd grown up around it, playing in the waves for hours, day after day. The day we went snorkeling, they again showed no fear of riding on a boat for the first time or of getting in the ocean to snorkel, also for the first time. They were also well-mannered and respectful of the crew.

I'm proud of them. Considering all they have been through in the past five years, it's remarkable that they're turning out as well as they are. True, they can be mean to each other at times, but what kids aren't? I love them, and Mark does, too. He is to them as much a dad as I am, and he is a lot more funner (as Annie would say) than I am. I am grateful beyond words that they have him in their lives.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Snorkeling and The Great Crab Hunt

We had our big adventure of the trip yesterday when we went snorkeling at Molokini crater and at an area where sea turtles gather for "washing." I was a bit apprehensive as we set out across the water, not knowing how the kids would react to a boat ride. I shouldn't have been, however. If any of them were the least bit fearful, they didn't show it.

Then I was apprehensive about how they'd handle snorkeling. Again, I shouldn't have been. We had a crew member assigned to our family, and she was great with the kids - getting them fitted, going over safety issues and showing them pictures of fish they might see. 

We first went inside the crater, where I took the lead photo looking down into the water. There weren't, however, as many fish this year as there were two years ago when I made the same trip with the same snorkeling company (Seafire - I recommend them).

"There's too many," the captain, Don, said at one point as he surveyed the scene of a half-dozen or more snorkeling boats moored in the crater. "Too many people. They scared away all the fish. It used to be ten times better than this: flowering coral, amazing fish. But all the sunscreen, all the oil, all the engine fuel ... it's killing it ..." Don's boat accommodates about 20 people. Several of the other boats can accommodate three to four times that amount, if not more. Nevertheless, we all had a good time, and Mark and Aaron got to see an octopus.

From inside the crater, we went around to the back of it for more snorkeling then returned to a spot just offshore that had been my highlight of the trip two years ago and was again yesterday: the sea-turtle "washing station." It was a spot 50-60 yards offshore where turtles come to rest and fish come to eat the stuff that has adhered to the turtle's shell. We saw a couple of examples of that and at least a dozen different turtles of various sizes. The kids loved it. They also enjoyed feeding finches as we made our way back to the boat dock.

After a breather and some sandwiches back at the condo, we headed to Po'olenalena Beach. The kids had spent five hours in the water there on Saturday, playing in the waves and with their boogie boards. The water is much safer here than on Big Beach, which means that Mark and I can read a bit instead of having our eyes constantly glued on the kids.

I knew the day had been going too well. It was bound to happen, and it did: the boys started fighting over a boogie board. We had to allot times to each, but that system quickly broke down. I was approaching wrist-slashing territory (again), when Mark came up with a brilliant idea. 

"Ok, kids," he announced. "Tell you what. We will pay $20 to anyone who catches a sand crab." Eyes widened, and they were off. Each of the boys grabbed a weapon (a large sand shovel) and headed off toward mid-beach, while Esther and Annie staked out a territory near the end of the beach. 

Now, I should perhaps explain that we felt we had made a very safe bet. Sand crabs are notoriously fast. They pop out of the sand and scurry across the beach, immediately retreating if they sense they are threatened. But the kids were tenacious: for the next 90 minutes, they were hard at it. Mark and I, meanwhile, gloated a little over our successful diversion as we enjoyed virtually uniterrupted reading time. We knew we were tempting fate but couldn't help ourselves.

The boys, who were much closer to us than the girls, employed a variety of stratagems. These included the following: trying to set a trap with a pail; waiting for a crab to surface, then pouncing on it, scooping up the sand where the crab had dived; pounding on the sand with a shovel; jumping up and down on a spot where a crab had surfaced; and throwing a shovel full of a sand at a spot. We had not, after all, specified whether the crab had to be alive.

Above: Levi pounces. Below, Aaron waits, ready to spring

Finally, the boys headed down to where the girls were. Suddenly, there was a commotion, then all four came hurdling down the beach towards us, each grinning from ear to ear. Esther triumphantly opened her hand to reveal a teeny-tiny sand crab, only a fraction of the size of the crabs we had challenged them to find. But we couldn't very well back out of the deal then.

Of course, the boys immediately expressed disappointment and resentment. Both, but especially Levi, can be very competitive and aren't always (like, never) good sports when someone else wins a competition. We would now pay for gloating over our 90-minute repose. Things got ugly quickly. It was time to head back to the condo, where we would lock (we wish) the kids in their respective rooms.

The end of an afternoon on the beach

Or so I thought. We stopped at Safeway on the way back, where I went in to pick up a few things. I didn't feel the least bit guilty for leaving Mark in the van to deal with four sullen children.

When I came back out and got into the van, I thought I had stepped into a twilight zone. The children were talking happily with each other. I didn't say anything thing at the time, but later asked Mark, "What the hell happened?" 

"Well," he replied, "I had a talk with them. I told them that we're just a couple of old guys who are trying to provide them with a good time; but it's really hard on us when they start fighting with each other."

"And they bought that?" I asked.

"Sort of. Esther responded by saying, 'We know. But we're kids after all, and we're all different from each other.'"

Point taken. And so we face another day - our last full day here. We fly out tomorrow night.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

"He's My Wife"

"He's my wife," I replied.

We had stopped at "Big Mama's" roadside stand a couple of days ago on the way out to Big Beach with the kids. I had first met her three years ago (pictured above), a very large older Hawaiian woman who makes and sells jewelry at her stand along with fruit and wood carvings made by her son. I bought some things from her that year, and we subsequently passed her stand dozens of times over the ensuing years. I wanted the children to meet her.

The woman's granddaughter was there to help. Grandma isn't mobile: once installed on her chair, she is there for the day. Both extended their aloha as we walked up to their tables laden with hand-made jewelry, wood carvings and tropical fruit. My eye was immediately drawn to some small woven fans. "A perfect Christmas ornament," I said to myself."

"Can you tell me about the fans?" I inquired.

"Sure," Big Mama replied. "Me and my sister make those." She then went into a lengthy explanation of how they are made, most of which I didn't absorb, except that they're hand-woven. I asked to look at them.

"Is this for yourself or your wife?" the granddaughter asked. I couldn't imagine why in the world it would make any difference - I mean, it's not like they had masculine-looking fans vs. feminine looking fans. I couldn't resist a reply.

"Actually," I said, pointing to Mark, "he's my wife." I immediately regretted saying it. That often happens to me. There followed what is usually termed an awkward silence. But granddaughter, if she even caught on, rebounded immediately. 

"Are you guys twins?" she asked, apparently unfazed or perhaps untouched by my quip.

Mark and I smiled. It never ceased to amaze us how many people over the course of our time together had asked if he and I are brothers or even twins. We didn't think we even remotely looked like each other.

"Several people have told us that," I replied. 

"Really?" she said. "Well, you do look alike, except that you," she added, pointing at me, "have braces and he doesn't."

Hmmm. I bought the fan.

Meanwhile, I thought it would be appropriate, given the theme of this post, to relate a conversation that Annie, age eight, had yesterday with Mark and me.

"Were you ever married before, Mark?"

"No, Annie, I've only been married once - to your dad."

"Didn't you ever have a wife?"


"Why not?"

"Because I'm gay, Annie."

"Do you know what 'gay' means, Annie?" I asked.


"It means that Mark and I fall in love with men instead of women."

"Oh. What's for dinner?"

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Of Haleakala and Hobbits

We thought it would be a good idea to take the kids yesterday up to the crater on top of Haleakala, Maui's volcano. It wasn't. We thought they'd be interested in seeing it and the surrounding views. They weren't. It wasn't fun. The kids moped, as the above picture captures. Mark kept reminding me: "Some day, the kids will look back on this and be glad they'd seen it." Hmmm. We learned: no more road trips of any kind while we're here.

We ate sandwiches when we got back to the condo. Mark and I thought it'd be a good idea to then take the kids to a beach in central Kihei where the waves are fairly gentle. We thought they'd like to boogie board there. They did - for about ten minutes. Then the complaints started. The waves weren't big enough. Levi and Annie bickered. Though the beach stretched for three hundred yards, they clumped together. I finally suggested that Levi stay on one side of Esther and Annie on the other. Then the bickering started about Annie not staying on her side. I momentarily considered slitting my wrists. We left the beach.

The rest of the day went in a better direction. Mark took Aaron and Esther to Big Beach and I stayed in the condo with Levi and Annie. It was quiet and relaxing (because they were in separate rooms). When the others got back, we had a nice dinner provided by Mother Kirkland (Costco). Then, mercifully, it was time to go to bed.

I realized yesterday that the kids are growing up. They have different interests. I had looked forward to one-on-one time with the kids on the beach during this trip. I had, for example, fantasized about sitting with Levi on the beach, building sand castles and talking. I've realized, however, that Levi would much rather spend time in the waves. The time for building sand castles has passed. 

A parent's fantasies about spending time with their children, I realized yesterday, are often just that - fantasies that have more to do with the parent than the child. I hadn't fantasized about sitting with Levi on the couch in the condo on a sunny afternoon watching The Hobbit. However, that's exactly what we did yesterday afternoon, and it was nice.

Friday, June 12, 2015

What Kids Say ... And Don't Say

The kids made some new friends on the beach yesterday, a brother and sister who shared a couple of hours of pure bliss on Big Beach. They didn't even know their names by the time we left, but that didn't stop them from instant bonding. Amazing what kids can do.

And what they can say.

On our way to the beach yesterday morning, I explained that the uninhabited island across from Big Beach was at one time used as a firing range by the military. Aaron's response: "Do you think a nuke could destroy the whole island of Maui?"

Then there was Esther. A Lays potato chip truck passed us on the highway. "Do you think someone would rob a potato chip truck just to get to the potato chips?" I don't think there's an answer to that question.

Silent Sentinel

I continued to be amazed yesterday at how the kids had no fear of the waves. I have seen something in the children that I haven't seen before. They have steadily been becoming less fearful in general as Mark and I have worked to help them realize that the world is not out to get them. But this was something different. They embraced adventure and danger. I think I see much more outdoor adventure in our future together - which means that I'm going to have to do something about my own fear.

Esther and her new friend, with Annie sitting on the beach

They're under there somewhere

Aaron, 12, is growing like a weed

After spending the morning on the beach, we drove up to Lahaina for lunch and some souvenir shopping. This picture pretty much expresses the joy of souvenir shopping.

I wrote above about what kids can say. It can also be amazing about they don't say. When we were in Lahaina, we twice saw an older man - probably about 65 - walking around who was, um, unconventionally dressed - at least by Salt Lake standards. He wore faded purple pants and an equally colorful shirt with peace signs and other jewelry hanging from around his neck, arms, wrists and ankles, with several plastic leis around his neck added for good measure. A glazed look in his eyes, along with unkempt hair and a dirty grey beard stained brown from smoking unfiltered cigarettes - one of which was hanging from his mouth - completed the picture. 

None of the kids said a thing.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Pure Happiness

Yesterday was our first full day of family vacation. We splurged and brought the kids to Maui, completely surprising them. It was and is so worth it. It was their first time on a plane and the first time they've seen open ocean.

Mark, the "wave doctor" took each one of the kids individually into the surf to give them a basic lesson on how to handle waves.

I was amazed at how fearless the children were. I had expected at least some level of fear and anxiety, but we couldn't get them out of the water, not that we tried. My youngest son was being repeatedly tossed about as the waves rolled in. His response: "That's what I'm all about - being tossed around." I had initially expressed a degree of anxiety of my own on their behalf and suggested they simply play at the water's edge. This same son's response: "I didn't come here to play in the sand. I came here to play in the water."

First game of paddleball

A budding movie star

Speaking of movie star ...

I had to end with this picture. Pure happiness.