Sunday, August 8, 2010

Utah Songs

When my flight finally touched down in Salt Lake last Wednesday, I was really, truly happy.  It is impossible to adequately describe the profound comfort I felt about the prospect of seeing my parents, my sisters, my little brother and his wife, my nieces and nephews.  It seems like the older I get, the more precious they become to me, the more grateful I am for the love that flows between us.  I am a gay man, so I don't take their unconditional love for me for granted.

I could also hardly wait for Sunstone.  This year it exceeded my expectations.  This felt like my best Sunstone Symposium yet, partly because I have made lots of friends within the Sunstone community, and seeing them again is itself a kind of family reunion.  My heart leaped at the sight of a brother or sister I hadn't seen in years.  It felt so good to hug and be hugged by them, to laugh together and exchange news.  Ron Schow was there (as always!).  It also felt good to meet for the first time new friends.  JonJon and Alan were there.  I found other new gay Mormon friends as well, including some BYU students who have been working hard to get the right to meet on campus.  A highlight of the conference for me was meeting Gerry Argetsinger.  Gerry and I were in the same ward together in Rochester, New York when I was a teenager.  I participated in road shows that he directed!  He was so delighted to see me, and seeing him and hearing news from him made me happy beyond words.  And there were some old friends from Affirmation as well.

One of the truly bittersweet moments of the Symposium was when I attended the "Why I Stay" panel.  I sat with my friend Mark from Affirmation on one side and JonJon on the other.  About half way through the panel, as I was listening to these brothers and sisters talk about the struggles of faith that had almost caused them to leave the Church, and why, after all, they had decided to stay, I couldn't help but reflect on the fact of my own excommunicated status, and my deep desire to be a part of the Church, and I started to weep.  And I couldn't stop.  The tears just flowed for the rest of panel.  And JonJon started to weep as well.  And my friend Mark put his arm around me and hugged me and tried to comfort me.  And I was comforted.  JonJon, you will never know what it meant to me to have you there, weeping by my side.  When you cry alone, that is to be truly alone.  But there can be no more powerful bond of solidarity than when someone cries with you.

I was grateful for all the passionate discussion at the Symposium this year about Prop 8.  There was overwhelming support among symposium attendees for the right of same-sex couples to marry, and there was a general sense of elation about the recent U.S. District Court ruling striking down Prop 8.  It was so comforting to be surrounded by faithful, active Mormons who see this issue the way I do -- as a matter of basic human rights and dignity.  I wished my husband and my son could have been there.  They would have been encouraged as I was.

About half way through the last session of the symposium today, I began to feel this terrible, inconsolable sadness.  I felt truly stricken.  Just this pit in my stomach that wouldn't go away.  I didn't want to leave.  I didn't want the fellowship to end.  I wanted to stay and spend more time with my friends -- both new and old.  Writing about this makes me feel better.  It helps to work out my feelings and put words to them.  All of you -- you know who you are -- I love you and am so grateful for you and I will miss you.

It's hard for me.  In some senses, I think Utah would be a very difficult place for me to live.  But in other senses, I feel I would thrive here.  I am so hungry for the kinds of fellowship I can find here that I can't find anywhere else.

Right now, I realize I miss my family too.  So as melancholy as I feel right now, that's one reason to look forward to getting on the plane again tomorrow night.


JonJon said...

I was going to send you an email, but I'll just tell you here. I wish I could express what that moment meant to me. For me, crying with you while listening to them tell their stories was the sweetest experience of the entire weekend. And there were many pretty sweet experiences. Your presentation was another incredibly sweet moment. It is definitely one that I want to have a copy of to go back over and continue to absorb. I got to talk to your mother for a little bit after your presentation. She's adorable! She was absolutely glowing with pride for her son.

J G-W said...

I wouldn't have traded that hour of fellowship for any other the whole Symposium.

My mom is amazing. I went to Church with my parents this morning, and she was so sweet introducing me to everyone. The best mom a gay Mormon son could have.

alan said...

In some senses, I think Utah would be a very difficult place for me to live. But in other senses, I feel I would thrive here.

You mean, SLC, right? The rest of Utah might eat you alive.

I posted about Sunstone here, if you're interested.

J G-W said...

Yes, I mean SLC. Other parts of Utah would be, well, er, a challenging place for me and my family to live.