why i will never read “ender’s game”

I lot of people I know really like the sci-fi author Orson Scott Card, especially his most famous book, Ender’s Game.  As someone who enjoys reading (accessible) sci-fi, it’s been recommended to me time and time again, but I will never read this book.  I’m sure it’s great, but I can’t support Mr. Card’s writing, because I can’t support Mr. Card.

Orson Scott Card is a homophobe.  I don’t use that word lightly and disagree most of the time when someone is labeled a homophobe.  But he is.  Even worse is that he is the most dangerous kind of homophobe – the kind who doesn’t think he is one.  Self admitted homophobes will spew forth disgusting, degrading comments and may even act violently against gay people, but they are easily dismissed as “extreme” and “irrational”.  Mr. Card’s brand of homophobia is more dangerous because it lulls people into a attitude of intolerance and bigotry all the while convincing themselves that they are not only in the right, but acting and speaking out of some form of “tough love”.

It’s really disappointing, too.  Mr. Card has written some beautiful things, including his “Holding onto the ‘others’” article in the Mormon Times.  In this essay, he lament’s Mormon culture’s tendency to ostracize its nerdy and intellectual kids, ignoring them until they find their place in academia, often to leave the church behind.  It’s a poignant piece that obviously has some deep personal connection for him and has for several people I know, including me.  Unfortunately, however, this same man wrote an essay which included:

And if acceptable ways can be found to protect children from developing this reproductive dysfunction before it even manifests itself, or to shape society so as to encourage the least affected to achieve reproductive success — i.e., evolutionary normality — why would we not want to assure that the children we bear would be free of this dysfunction?
“Science on gays falls short”

How would it feel to be fourteen, gay, Mormon and read something like this?  I’ll tell you, it doesn’t make you feel very good about yourself.  I guess in his efforts to protect the nerdy kids from passive rejection, he’s also decided to actively reject and alienate the queer kids.  Accept the smart kids, try like hell to fix the gay ones, I guess.

It also is very frustrating his persistant coupling of homosexuality with pedophilia.  Twitter is all a rumble about the republishing of his novella, Hamlet’s Father.  In retelling of the Shakespeare play, Hamlet’s father is a gay pedophile who molested all of Hamlet’s friends which (of course) turned them all gay as well.  In a criticism of gay twins studies, Mr. Card suggested that the increased likelihood for twins to both be gay (2x for fraternal, 5x for identical) was that the similar appearance of the children would influence their likelihood of being molested, if they are attractive.  The unstated assumption is that the molestation, of course, would turn them gay:

The study does not allow for the possibility that the physical appearance of the subjects might have played a role. If seduction, molestation, or other sexual trauma contributes to homosexuality, and if those are influenced by the perceived attractiveness of the subject to a molester, seducer, or rapist, then the greater physical resemblance between identical twins may account for some of the results.
“Science on gays falls short”

C’mon, that’s messed up.

Of course, this would be less maddening of Mr. Card, a National Organization for Marriage board member, didn’t constantly try and convince us that he doesn’t have a problem with gay people, insisting he has more of a centrist role, “I suppose I can take some comfort from the fact that over the years I have been savaged both for showing too much sympathy for the ‘abomination’ of homosexuality and for showing too much ‘homophobic’ opposition to the political agenda of the radical homosexual community.”   He even asserts that:

“The hypocrites of homosexuality are, of course, already preparing to answer these statements by accusing me of homophobia, gay-bashing, bigotry, intolerance; but nothing that I have said here — and nothing that has been said by any of the prophets or any of the Church leaders who have dealt with this issue — can be construed as advocating, encouraging, or even allowing harsh personal treatment of individuals who are unable to resist the temptation to have sexual relations with persons of the same sex.”
The Hypocrites of Homosexuality

This is from an essay in which he encourages the illegalization of homosexuality, being a threat to civilized society.  He repeats that homosexuality should not be met with violence and seems to make a effort to prove he doesn’t hate gays by using the fact that he brushed on the topic of homosexuality in his story, Songmaster, which, again, couples homosexuality with child molestation.

Mr. Card was a vocal advocate for the passing of Prop 8 in California, during which he wrote an article saying:

“However emotionally bonded a pair of homosexual lovers may feel themselves to be, what they are doing is not marriage. They are not turning their relationship into what my wife and I have created, because no court has the power to change what their relationship actually is. They steal from me what I treasure most, and gain for themselves nothing at all. They won’t be married. They’ll just be playing dress-up in their parents’ clothes.”
“Homosexual ‘Marriage’ and Civilization”

Somehow is a legal gay marriage not only less valid to him, but it takes away from the validity of his own marriage.  If you’ll forgive a C.S. Lewis quote (who, in turn was quoted by President Ezra Taft Benson in his 1989 Conference talk):

“Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. ? It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone.”
Mere Christianity

I’m going to move on from that one.

In the end, I really don’t care what Orson Scott Card thinks about me.  I’m almost 30 years old and my self esteem doesn’t hinge on the illogical writings of a YA sci-fi novelist, but I do denounce him on the basis that he is a YA sci-fi novelist.  YA as in Young Adult as in read by kids and teenagers.  Some of whom are nerdy.  Some of whom read his “Holding onto the ‘others'” essay with tears in their eyes longing for those in their ward to recognize them, too.  Longing to be accepted for who they are, as he calls for.  Some of whom are also gay and read his other writings that say that being gay is something to be fixed, that a gay relationship is, by nature, inferior to a straight relationship.  This gay nerdy kid who will make the very, very short leap to assume that he, by nature, is inferior to a straight person.

I’m hoping this gay, nerdy, Mormon kid will find his or her way over to the It Gets Better Project and watch video after video of successful, happy gay people urging that kid to just hold on, that it will get better, that they will eventually find people who will love them for who they are.

Orson Scott Card is wrong.

the post in which i stop being a gutless wonder, probably.

A couple of weeks ago, I read this post: The Complete Guide To Not Giving A ****.  For those who are turned off by coarse language, just skip it.  For the rest, go ahead and read it. I’ll wait.

(humming that M.I.A. song from her last album)

Okay, so you’re back and you’ve deduced from the title of this post that I completely identify with the vast majority of that post (with a couple of exceptions that I’ll get to in a bit).  My spineless jellyfishery isn’t a lifelong ailment, however, but more of a acquired illness brought about, primarily, by an allergic reaction to blogging.

Let me ‘splain.

I didn’t used to have a problem saying what I thought.  In fact, one could easily have made the argument in high school that I said what I thought a little too much…and a little too harshly.  Simply put, I was kind of a douche.  Not a total douche, mind you, but still pretty douchey.  All this was a defense mechanism, of course, because of  yadda yadda yadda gay yadda low self esteem yadda yadda football.  Fast forward to college where I made some friends who liked me for me and I mellowed out a bit, learned to carry on a conversation without being completely condescending and discovered a few viewpoints that were different from my own and yet didn’t seem completely wrong.

Then I started blogging.  Not this blog, average life, of course.  This blog was what blogs originally were: random, boring (even to people who liked me), and  completely unreadable.  Then I decided to start a blog where I would try to be the opposite of those things.  Weirdly enough, people started reading.  And when I mean “people”, I mean low triple digits…very low.  Sometimes I’d spike into mid-triple digits when someone more interesting would link to me, but Pioneer Woman, it wasn’t.

Still, I began to obsess over this blog.  Was the content funny enough?  Insightful enough?  How could I increase readership?  How much snark was too much snark?  What made matters worse was that the blog was about an issue that was really sensitive to me at the time.  On a personal level, some people that I had known started to think about me differently.  It was rare that their opinion of me was negative, but opinions did change, even it was only to something different than before.  My opinions started shifting, too.

And I panicked.

I’d spent much of my high school years without many friends I felt I could be myself around (not necessarily their fault) and I knew I couldn’t go back to that.  And so to prevent myself from losing my friends and family, I stopped talking.  Not completely, of course, but I stopped expressing opinions that I felt might offend, completely ignoring the fact that many of my friends shared a lot of the same opinions as me.  I mean, we were friends, after all.  I still expressed opinions (ask me how I feel about Michael Moore), but they were ones that dealt with subject matter so niche that often I was the only one in a group that had an opinion of it, which made it safe.

Still, I started avoiding confrontations that might have arisen from politics, religion, my choices, and anything else that I thought might cause tension.  It was ridiculous to the point that even around people who were simply expressing opinions that I agreed with, I would still avoid the conversation and remain silent.  I became overly concerned about my own image and what people perceived that I was.  This usually manifested itself at keeping everyone at arm’s length except for my closest of friends and even they were kept farther away that I should have.

So, I’m kind of done with that.

I developed these bad habits and they will probably take a while to break, but at least I’m making an effort to rediscover my hidden Opinion.  I see no need to be a jerk or beligerant, but avoiding confrontation and controversy have only resulted in me being an uninteresting and evasive.  Which, blech.  So, If you aren’t my friend and you don’t like me, okay.  If you are someone new and you don’t like me, well that’s a shame.  If you are a friend and you don’t like me, we should probably talk about it and if you still don’t like me, well maybe we should just move on.  I’ll survive.  By contrast, if you do like me, I’ll try to do better about letting you in.  I’ll be difficult for me, but I’m working on it.  If you ask me my opinion, I’ll give it to you.

Here, let’s try it out for a bit:

  1. Don’t you just love the Daily Show?
    It’s funny and all, but I think it fosters a little too much cynicism.  While our political system has a lot…lot of problems, I think that it also requires a bit of idealism in order to work well.  Just look at the friggin’ lunar landings.  They were essentially a PR stunt by Kennedy that wrecked the Federal budget.  It was money that could have been used to help the needy, tax rebates, whatever your cause, but in the end, it was a creative phenomenon that united the American people in something that wasn’t war and inspired a generation of scientists.  Sometimes you have to dream and lift up, not make your living by only taking pot shots.  Wait, I take it back.  Something that invalidates my entire point was Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity – particularly his end speech.  True, the whole show was just that, a show, but his closing speech of the event was truly inspring.  You’re alright, Mr. Stewart.
  2. Do you think the church will ever accept homosexuality?
    No, or at the very least, not in my lifetime.  One could easily point out the fundamental doctrinal incompatibilities, but the church has done complete 180’s on fundamental doctrines before (whether it admits they are 180’s or not).  Still, more importantly, the church has absolutely no motivation to change on this issue.  Some estimate that up to ten percent of the population reside somewhere east of “straight” on the Kinsey scale.  My personal view is that number is less than five percent.  The church isn’t going to fundamentally rewrite their doctrine to accommodate five to ten percent of their population – especially when the other 90 to 95 percent are mostly opposed.  The economics don’t work out; it isn’t going to happen.
  3. Do you think Obama will win in 2012?
    I hope so.  I actually like Obama’s generally rational and compromising approach to governance and that many of the things he said in his campaign that he was going to do, he actually did or is in the process of doing.  I think his foreign policy could use a little experience, but domestically, I find his actions and words to be respectable and responsible, even if I strongly agree with some of them.
  4. Did you really go to an all-white school when you were a kid?
    I did, and I’m not proud of it.  I understand the decisions that were made that caused me to go to school there.  I recognize that there weren’t many options and of those, there weren’t any good options.  Still, I’m glad that it closed down ten years ago.  Schools like that are still around in the rural south, but they shouldn’t be, which is an obvious fact to anyone who doesn’t live in the areas where they still exist.
  5. What was the part of that blog post did you not agree with?
    Mostly the part about resisting the urge to resist the urge to swear.  While swearing has its place mostly, however, it’s just lazy.  If you learn more words, you just might be able to express yourself more effectively.  If you want to be edgy, be edgy with what you say, the words you use to say it, because the effectiveness of that fades.
  6. What did you think about the season finale of Glee?
    I hate Glee.  Aside from the fact that I find most non-diegetic singing in TV and film to be jarring, I hate the fact that Chris Colfer’s character, Kurt is lauded as a role-model for gay teens.  He’s a selfish, abrasive, attention whore.  I’m not against the femmy little gays having a role model because heaven knows their lives can be pretty bad, but surely you can do better than Kurt.  Also, how about a throwing in some role models for the less flamboyant gays out there while we’re at it?  Gay culture can celebrate its more in-your-face members all they want (and more power to them), but by mostly ignoring the rest of us, it makes it harder for us to identify with you.

Wow, those weren’t really that controversial…  Hence, the Alanis Morissette-style irony of this whole situation.

Peace out.

existential crisis(ish)

As I tap this out on my phone, a breeze flows in from the Gulf and the waves provide constant brown noise that cancels out most other sounds. I sit under the gazebo having an existential crisis. This is no big thing, I think I’ve had hundreds of existential crises in my lifetime, to the point that “crisis” should probably be downgraded to “quandary”. (Though I do plan on having a full-scale existential crisis in the spring of 2013, but that is for another post.)

My current existential quandary deals with, as usual, the direction of my life.

The main problem with striking out in a new direction is that the path, being relatively untrodden, is overgrown and dense and I’ve never been great with a machete. But, metaphors aside, there is quite a bit of ambiguity in the future that I’m wondering about, which is not uncommon, I suppose. The future for most people is not super forthcoming. For me, I’m realizing more and more that I want my future to include marriage (depending on the state) and family. This is no huge surprise to anyone that knows me or even to myself, but what is surprising is my strength of conviction on this point. I’m finding myself becoming more and more willing to “do what it takes” achieve this goal.

Given such an attitude, one would assume that I would attach myself to any suitable candidate like a BYU freshman (sorry, guys), but I’ve even surprised myself at how my pickiness is growing. I don’t believe in the “right person”, but I do believe in the “wrong person” and it appears that that particular list is growing. While this seems contradictory to the “do whatever it takes comment”, I think that that manifests itself more in the willingness to push myself out of my comfort zone to place myself in situations where I can meet new people. The problem I’m finding with this, however, is that, by definition, I’m not comfortable and my defenses go into overdrive, locking me down emotionally to the point that it’s almost impossible to get in. So, while I’m doing better about meeting new people, I’m doing worse about letting people have emotional access. Or maybe I’m willing to settle, it’s just the points I’m not willing to settle on aren’t easily found amongst eligible suitors.

Maybe I’ll just move to Utah, since, you know, that always solves everyone’s problems. Heh.

I acknowledge there wasn’t a point to this. I’m not even going to read over it to check for grammar and spelling errors. It’s simply what’s going through my head as the wind sifts through my hair and beachcombers look for crabs with their flashlights.

Maybe if I wait here long enough, the waves, which have seen everything since time began, will explain how all of this is supposed to work.

Nevermind, here come some rednecks; I’m heading back to the condo.

the partly cloudy blogger

One could easily describe Sarah Vowell as short, but she isn’t so below one’s gaze that her stature calls attention to itself.  Despite her height, the author of The Partly Cloudy Patriot and The Wordy Shipmates stared straight over the heads of her audience, even when she addressed an individual directly.  After reading from her latest historical book, Unfamiliar Fishes, which focuses on the colonization of the Hawaiian Islands by the United States, she took questions from the audience.

Several questions focused on Vowell’s writing style, which often focuses on the significance of small moments or attaches sentiment to (probably) insignificant artifacts.  After discussing her research for Assassination Vacation, a book that in which she writes about all of the U.S. presidents who have the distinction of being shot while in office (with the exception of JFK, he being far too recent to capture her imagination), she describes the only moment in which President Garfield has a glimmer of non-dullness in his writings is when he mentions his love of books.  He would sit sideways in his reading chair sideways (“like a teenager”, she describes) to the point that the chair is tilted to this day.  It’s those insights and moments that are characteristically Sarah Vowell.

One question asked her how she looks for those moments, to which she replied, “you can’t really look for them,” insisting that they just happen and you have to be paying attention in order to recognize them since they will often occur in ways you won’t expect.

Another audience member asked, “so, do you make those connections while researching or later?  I mean, when do you-”

“Make mountains out of molehills?” she interrupted and admitted that many times those insights happen in hindsight, noting the metaphor she used in Unfamiliar Fishes of the strangler fig she saw in Hawaii representing the U.S. expanding and driving out everything it touches wasn’t the first thing she thought of when she saw the tree.  When she first saw the tree with its twisted roots and sprawling branches she thought, “that looks like my brain.”

She explained that it was all just the process of writing.  “The parts of my life where I am most alive is when I’m sad,” she explained to the chuckling audience.  “I mean, there are days where I wake up, go to a matinée with my friend, do random stuff, and then go to bed, but I don’t write about it.  But that was a good day.  Or when I’m spending time and happy with my family.  We enjoy it, but no one wants to read about that and I don’t want to write about it.”

I extremely enjoyed the evening, not only because I love listening to Sarah Vowell read her writing in her own voice, but also because her writing process as she described it was one of the most similar to my own that I’ve come across.  True, Ms. Vowell is an accomplished author of historical non-fiction and I blog…sometimes…but some of the ideas are still the same.  I essentially will take a moment from my life (preferably from the mid-to-far distant past) and built a narrative around it.  I sometimes recognize those moments when I’m experiencing them, but other times those moments are recognized later.  The narrative is non-fiction, but liberties are taken with chronology, contexts, and ideas in order to make the narrative more interesting.  Did the story happen?  Yes.  Did the story happen in that exact order, was a conversation included in its entirety, or were my thoughts represented exactly as I thought them at the time?  …Maybe, if they help the story, but if not they are omitted, rearranged, or reshaped.

I also tend to focus on the parts of my life where there has been the most conflict, emotion, or, at least, cause for mockery simply because it makes for a better story.  While I’m a supporter of journaling, this blog (and my past blogs) are written to be read by someone other than myself.  While I had a wonderful time cooking for my friends when they came over to watch Conference, or spending the afternoon hanging out with the Marrieds and their kids while they did craft project, I don’t write it, because it isn’t a good story.  But they were good days.

As such, one could easily get a very skewed view of what my life is like with all of its angst and confusion, but the reality is that I’m actually quite happy.  Of course, this hasn’t always been the case and there were several periods of my life where I was very unhappy, indeed, even for long periods of time, but things haven’t been like that for quite a while.  My life, fortunately, has been quite good in the past few years.  I have wonderful friends, married and single (just covering myself there), with whom I feel at home.  I like my job and it affords me the opportunity to do things like fly to Seattle for the weekend on a whim (May! Whoohoo!).  My life isn’t perfect and there are days when I feel sad, lonely, or whatever, but those days are the exception, not the rule.  Most of my life is happy.  Just don’t expect me to write too much about it.

Because happy is boring.


the party

The thin air burned the inside of my nose with each breath.  There was a line of cars running down the street that stopped in front of the house in front of which I stood slowly pacing.  As I listened to my sister’s voice over the phone, I looked out at the Wasatch Mountains, which loomed in the distance.  When I’d go as a kid with my family to visit my grandparents in Idaho, I had loved to sit and stare at the Teton Mountains, but these mountains were foreign and only reminded me of the fact that I was two thousand miles away from home.

The reason I was in Utah was the party that was going on in the house behind me.  It was a monthly get-together for gay Mormons that was held by a family in the west valley.  After hearing about the party for months, I had bought a plane ticket at the last minute and had flown out to attend.  I had shuttered my blog a few months previously and was feeling a little out of touch and I had hoped that meeting some of the people whose blogs I had read for years would help me to feel a kinship with others like me.  I had found, however, that conversation didn’t come easily and as the evening progressed, I talked less and less until I wasn’t talking at all.  I slipped out the front door and called my sister, needing to hear a familiar voice.

I told her I was at the party, but was having a hard time connecting with anyone on a conversational level, that many of the people there was younger than me, and that it was kind of awkward.  I hadn’t told her who were the principle attendants at the party, however, an omission that made me feel a separation between us.  After talking for about half an hour, the conversation ended and I sat down on the curb, not ready to go back inside.  I could hear the hiss of sprinkler systems in the subdivision around me.  Man, suburbs like this creeped me out.

A couple of guys walked up the sidewalk and I pretended to be sending a text so I didn’t have to interact more than a half-smile and nod.  They half-smiled and nodded back and went into the party.  My insides sank as I pocketed my phone.  I had flown all that way to finally meet a group of people who were like me, who knew what I felt, only to find that I actually didn’t have much in common with most of them.  Most everyone was younger than me and their conversations revolved around more stereotypically gay interests, things that I didn’t have much interest in.  Everyone else was older and their conversation consisted of activism and theories of orientation, having fought the fight for so long that they didn’t know how to stop fighting, even at a party.  There were even a few married guys with their wives.

I didn’t really belong there.

My sister’s voice had provided some comfort but after talking around the fact that I was at a social for gay Mormons, I saw another world in which I didn’t completely fit.

And so I sat on the curb.

The air grew more chilly as the sun set.  I decided that since I had spend five hours on a plane, I had probably at least give the party a second shot.  I went back into the house and tried mingling a bit more, but again I found myself quietly drifting into corners.  After a while it had finally grown dark enough to set up a projector and the host slid in a DVD of a gay movie in which there was singing, dancing, and glitter.  I sighed and wondered how early was too early to leave.

As everyone rearranged into a more movie-friendly formation, I saw a woman across the room quiety sinking into her own corner, not quite sure what to do.  She was older, in her late fifties, probably.  I recognized her as one of the wives there with her husband.  I got up, grabbed a soft drink, slipped in next to her.

“What?  You’re not excited to watch this movie?” I said with a friendly smile that I had to force a bit after the course of the evening.

“No,” she said with a slight chuckle.

“Um…do you want to go out on the deck?” I asked.

Yes,” she said with what sounded like relief.

She went and got her coat and told her husband where she was headed, he having been so caught up in the conversations of the evening that he hadn’t noticed that she had drifted away from him.

We sat out on the deck and listened to the sound of the heat pumps whirring around the neighborhood.

“No you guys come to these things regularly?” I asked.

“No,” she replied, “he only told me he was…attracted to men…a couple months ago.”

“Really?” I said, disbelieving.

“Oh, yes.  I had no idea.  He found out about these get-togethers and it was really important to him to meet other people to talk to.  So, we came,” she said.

I was amazed that he was brave enough to come having only come out to his wife two months prior.  I was more amazed at her for coming, too.

“You did seem a little out of your element, I guess,” I said.

“Yes,” she replied, “I’m still not used to the idea of all of this,” she said motioning to the people in the house, who were by now engrossed in the movie.  I heard one of the musical numbers start up.

I sighed.  “Yeah, I guess neither am I,” I admitted.

“You know what I kept thinking tonight?” she said.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“What a waste,” she replied, “here you have all of these wonderful young men who would make excellent husbands and fathers, but they probably will never have families.  It’s just a waste.”

I wasn’t sure if I should feel offended or complemented, but I saw the lost look in her eyes and I decided that I would take it as a complement and so I smiled.

We talked more and she told me about her children and grandchildren (whom she saw no need to tell about their father, she added).  She asked me how my family and friends reacted when I told them and I said that they had generally reacted rather positively, or no real reaction at all.  We continued talking about this and that until the movie ended and then we talked a bit further still.  Occasionally one of the other wives would come and check on her and seeing that we showed no desire to go back inside, they soon defected back to the party.

I didn’t care.  We just kept talking.