Thursday, January 24, 2013

Stories

I did an interview recently with Daniel Parkinson for the Gay Mormon Stories podcast.  The interview has recently been published in four parts:
  • Part 1 covers my upbringing, my mission, my experience at BYU, and the depression I experienced after my mission as a result of struggles in relation to my sexuality;
  • Part 2 covers how I was saved from near suicide, my departure from the Church, and my search for deeper understanding of my relationship with God and of my sexuality;
  • Part 3 covers the challenges of finding a husband, and -- once I'd found Göran -- building a home and family with him; my early exploration of the connections between spirituality and sexuality; and my coming out to and reconciliation with my parents; and
  • Part 4 covers my return to the LDS Church, becoming the father of a gay son, and what my journey with the Church has meant to me and my family, ending with my testimony.
Part of what I love about the "Mormon Stories" format is its extravagance.  Participants are allowed to just tell their stories without worrying about time or other constraints, and then the raw story is published in podcast format with minimal editing.  The result is a sometimes very long interview (mine is about 5 1/2 hours in total, when you put parts 1 - 4 all together).

That's perhaps much longer than most people are willing to listen.  But it's also more conversational and real, and allows you to immerse yourself in the grit of people's real stories in all of their grandiose complexity.

Daniel was a good interviewer.  He's a professional psychologist, and he managed to get my guard down and get me talking about stuff that, in retrospect, surprised me a bit.  I shared some stuff I've never shared in any other context.

Daniel and I, though contemporaries at BYU and in the Mormon mission field (he also served in a French-speaking mission), come from fairly different perspectives (his much more secular than mine).  Those differences made for a much more interesting interview.  I was sometimes startled by the thoughts and memories his questions provoked.  The end result felt strangely satisfying.

Gay Mormon Stories is part of a much larger enterprise of documenting and disseminating stories of LGBT Mormons that is taking place in many different places and formats: through blogs, published memoirs (just search on "gay Mormon" on Amazon.com), documentaries and dramas.  Increasingly, the national media are tapping into the gay Mormon experience as well.  The quantity of data is increasingly overwhelming.  Extravagant.  But there seems to be a hunger for it -- both inside and out of the Church.

The historian in me wonders what future historians will make of the mass of data we are in the process of accumulating and archiving.  I wouldn't dare to predict which direction history is moving (as some do).  I've studied enough history to know that there are always surprises.

But in the meantime I'm awed by the power of asking simple questions, and seeking answers from the storehouse of our lives.

2 comments:

Duck said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J G-W said...

Thanks, Duck! Our stories are just beginning to be told!