Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Election Thoughts: When Good Men and Women Do Nothing

Okay, so I've seen a lot of posts about how it's inappropriate to say that all Trump supporters are racist/sexist/homophobic/Islamophobic/etc. And you know, I do believe that. I am perfectly willing to believe that there are plenty of Trump supporters whose votes weren't motivated by hatred or animus towards any of these groups.

But here's the thing: Trump and Pence are motivated by that animus. They do plan to implement policies that will separate children from their undocumented immigrant parents, that will erode the housing, education, and employment rights of LGBT people, that will lead to even legal immigrants losing their visas, that will attack the freedom of religion of Muslims, that will allow the Voting Rights Act to continue to be attacked in racially motivated ways, and that will do a whole lot more harm that I don't have time to list.

So if your voted for Trump, there are three broad categories I can think of for how you weighed the consequences of these issues:
-You voted out of hatred for these groups.
-You didn't think about these groups at all.
-You thought about these groups, and decided that other issues were more important.

And I understand that there were many issues in this election, that we all had to weigh them, and that some people may weigh them differently than I do. That is your right as an American citizen and you can be a good person while having different priorities than I do. But here's the thing: we all have to take responsibility for the moral calculus that was involved in our vote. We have to take responsibility for our actions, no matter what the motivation behind them was.

So if your motivation wasn't hatred, that's great. Really. I'm heartened to know that you personally don't hate these people. But that still means that you were either indifferent to the suffering these people would experience, or you decided that their suffering was less important to you than other issues.

And you need to own up to that. You need to own up to the fact that even though you didn't vote AGAINST us, you still voted in a way that would hurt us. You need to take responsibility for it, be kind to people who are hurting, and do everything you can in the next four years to mitigate that hurt as much as possible. Otherwise, the fact that you don't actively support the hurt doesn't mean anything, because it will still be happening because of who you voted for.

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” - Edmund Burke

Sunday, November 6, 2016

It's Been A Year

I published some reflections on the policy change and the anniversary of my coming out on Facebook. I've decided to repost them here.

A year ago yesterday was the policy change, which many are calling the Policy of Exclusion. As I watched the controversy unfold over Facebook, I saw many good people, who I care about, say things about LGBT members that I knew they would never say to the face of someone they cared for. I saw many members claim that the policy was fine, because "those LGBT people" didn't want to be a part of the Church anyways, and this policy would make clear to the righteous that they weren't to be led astray by the rebellions of "those people."

And so a year ago today, I came out of the closet as bisexual. I had many reasons for doing this, but a major one was to show people that LGBT people are not this nameless, faceless, vaguely threatening group of "those people." We are people you know and love. We are in your wards. We hear what you say and write about us. And for those of us who have been born in the Church, many of us want very badly to be a part of it.

I have been fortunate, in that I was never forced to choose between having a family of my own and being in good standing with the Church. For the vast majority of LGBT members, an opposite-gender partner is not a viable option. I have tried to think of what it would have been like for me if I were forced to choose between my family and the Church. From the moment I met Mason, I knew how much happiness he would bring me. Would I have been able to glimpse that happiness, and turn away from it in favor of fifty years of celibacy? Would I have been able to deny myself a family while attending church week after week, a Church that constantly teaches that true happiness can only be found in families? I honestly don't know if I could.

I don't write this to try to convince anyone to change their mind about Church doctrine or even the policy. I write this to ask straight members to have empathy for the incredibly difficult sacrifice that the Church asks of its LGBT members. It is not the same as being as single straight member. Single straight members are encouraged to date. They are encouraged to pursue people who interest them. They are encouraged to hope for marriage. LGBT members are asked to suppress their feelings and wait until the next life to somehow figure this out. It is not the same. It is isolating and lonely and difficult.

Because of this, it is no surprise to me that some LGBT members eventually choose to pursue same-sex relationships in some capacity or another. This does not mean they don't want to be a part of the Church; indeed, many of them continue to try to continue to make our religion a part of their lives. And that's part of why this policy hurt - many felt like the Church was saying, "We don't want your efforts to continue to be involved in some way. You can stay and be lonely, or you can leave entirely."

I have seen many straight members claim that if LGBT members feel unwelcome, all they have to do is keep the commandments and they will feel welcome. This is an easy way to absolve the Church and its members from the hurt that LGBT members feel. It is comfortable to feel that you are not complicit in anyone's pain. It is comfortable to feel that there is an easy solution to pain.

I have two things to say to that. The first is that as a commandment-keeping, temple-married LGBT member, who doesn't even have to deal with the loneliness that most LGBT members experience, I can tell you that that isn't true. Simply keeping the commandments does not suddenly make the Church a welcoming place. There are plenty of things that have been done and said, from comments made in Sunday School all the way up to things said in General Conference, that have made LGBT members feel unwelcome, regardless of the status of their temple recommend. I am not referring to simple teachings of true doctrine. I am referring to hurtful things that have no place in the Gospel of Christ and no need to be said, ever, by anyone. And I am referring to the silence that implies agreement in the wake of those comments, the silence that says that we are not important enough to stand up for.

The second thing I have to say is, if possible, more important, and it is that as members of a Church that bears the name of Christ, we have the responsibility to do all we can to make sure that everyone feels the love of Christ through us, regardless of the commandments they are or are not keeping. Christ ate with publicans and sinners; He didn't do as the Pharisees did and wait for people to attain a certain standard of "worthiness" and then come to Him on their own. While teaching the Nephites after his resurrection, Christ taught:

"And behold, ye shall meet together oft; and ye shall not forbid any man from coming unto you when ye shall meet together, but suffer them that they may come unto you and forbid them not;
But ye shall pray for them, and shall not cast them out; and if it so be that they come unto you oft ye shall pray for them unto the Father, in my name.

Therefore, hold up your light that it may shine unto the world. Behold I am the light which ye shall hold up - that which ye have seen me do. [...]

And ye see that I have commanded that none of you should go away, but rather have commanded that ye should come unto me, that ye might feel and see; even so shall ye do unto the world; and whoseoever breaketh this commandment suffereth himself to be led into temptation. [...]

Nevertheless, ye shall not cast [people not keeping the commandments] out from among you, but ye shall minster unto him and shall pray for him unto the Father, in my name [...] ye shall not cast him out of your synagogues, or your places of worship, for unto such shall ye continue to minister; for ye know not but what they will return and repent, and come unto me with full purpose of heart, and I shall heal them." (3 Nephi 18)

The Savior makes it clear that it is not enough to simply passively say "Well, everyone is welcome at church if they really want to be there." We are supposed to *minister* to people. We are supposed to *actively work* to welcome them, just as He actively left the ninety and nine and sought after the one.

As a missionary, I brought all sorts of people to church and saw members make an effort to welcome them. People with prison tattoos. People reeking of cigarette smoke. People who were clearly not living the gospel. And I saw members go out of their way to make them feel loved and welcome. I saw members fellowship the same investigators for years, making them feel welcome and not judged while they explored the often complicated path of reconciling their life with the Church.

So don't tell yourself that LGBT people will feel welcome if they'd just keep the commandments, because there's no reason that they should be the exception to the fellowship that exists in Christ and has the potential to exist in each one of us. I have seen it in action. It is wonderful. It is healing. And every one of us LGBT members, whether we are keeping the commandments or not, needs that healing, because there has been so. much. hurt.

At minimum, I beg of you all to be very careful to not add to the burden that LGBT members carry, regardless of their activity level. But we are not a church that asks for the minimum. Don't settle for not adding to our burden. Please, help to bear it. Don't tell us that we're not doing enough to bear it on our own; all too often, those who are perceived of not doing enough have simply collapsed under the weight of it. Don't wait for us to come to you. Come to us, seek after us, welcome us, lift our burden upon your back, and help us return joyfully together to the peace of Christ's fold.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Adventures in Domesticity: The Couch

Okay, SO...

We moved into our new apartment, and since we still had the U-haul trailer until noon the next day, we figured we should take advantage of this opportunity to get a couch while we actually had a way to transport it. We could have just gone to DI or something and paid $40, but I wanted to see if we could get a couch for free, because college.

Someone on KSL was giving away a really nice green couch. Not a gross, someone-could-have-puked-on-this-and-I'd-have-no-idea green, but a contemporary green that would actually look nice. It looked a bit like this couch, except it had those armrests that curve on the inside and are straight on the outside:

Not your Grandma's weird green couch, is what I'm saying.
It was apparently just out on the curb and was free to whoever got there first. The only problem was, it was in Murray, which was about an hour away with traffic. Nevertheless, I decided I'd rather go on a vain quest for free furniture with a questionable history than unpack the apartment. Mason agreed to come along and we recruited my friend James to help lift it into the U-haul.

SO we had a really enjoyable, relaxing drive up through various highways and sub-highways while trying to merge with a trailer blocking our view out the back window. Despite the best efforts of other cars to get into pileups with multiple semi-trucks, we arrived in Murray. We turn onto the street, and pull towards the house only to see some jerk with a blue minivan in the process of loading the couch of destiny into their car.

Like, we literally got there five minutes too late.

There was another couch available in West Jordan, and the owner had said we could come by at 8 pm to pick it up. It was about 3:30 pm at this point, and I definitely didn't want to waste my gas and avoiding-near-death-highway-collisions quotas on going to Provo and coming back. James agreed to prolong our adventure and stop by the West Jordan house to see if anyone happened to be home.

After many, many, many detours, thanks to the stellar combination of Apple Maps and Utah road construction, we arrived on a quiet cul-de-sac and knocked on the door. A woman answered, looking confused, and I had a sudden flashback to my mission. All of my instincts insisted that I should start asking her about her religion, but instead I managed to communicate that we wanted to take her couch.

She shrugged and opened the garage, revealing a structurally sound couch covered in various types of gross. Mason and James loaded it into the car, and we agreed that it would probably be good with a vacuum and maybe some fabric cleaner. It seemed that our adventure had reached its successful conclusion.

Well, it seemed.

(Foreshadowing is hard, you guys. Also, you don't even need foreshadowing, you just need to follow me on Twitter and you'll already know what happens next.)

Ahem. Anyways.

So we're driving home on the I-15 and everything seems great. Of course, the combination of the trailer and Utah highways seems to be causing a little shaking, but we weren't worried about it.

The car began pulling to the right. We figured the couch had shifted, and kept driving.

The shaking got worse and worse. It seemed to be in line with the bumps that were regularly placed along every five feet of the corrugated road, though, so I thought everything was just fine.

But the shaking got worse, and suddenly we decided we needed to pull over RIGHT NOW. As we did so, a piece of rubber went flying past our window.


Strangely, I had been suppressing the urge to swear over completely minor moving things all day, but in this moment, the only thing that came to mind was "shoot."

To backtrack a bit, I had JUST FILLED UP THE TIRES the previous week, and everything seemed fine then. So I'm 91% sure that this blowout wasn't due to some sort of car maintenance negligence.

Anyways. So we're pulled over on the I-15 with semi trucks whizzing past us at 70 mph, and even though the shoulder is large enough to easily accommodate our car and trailer, I can't resist the feeling that I'm about to become a Jaclyn pancake.

Fortunately, a Highway Patrol guy shows up and puts his lights on behind us, which makes me feel safer. He supervises the tire change and loosens a few lug nuts (which were initially so tight that Mason and James had to stomp on the wrench and Mason got a pretty impressive bruise from it).

We get the spare tire put on, finally, and drive the rest of the way from Thanksgiving Point to Provo. Now I'm paranoid of every strange sound or smell, which is complicated by the fact that the shredded tire is in the trunk and filling the car with the scent of destroyed rubber.

So eventually we get home, clean up the couch, and decide to go to DI for the rest of the furniture we need.

I'm pretty sure the money we saved on the free couch is going towards fixing our tires now.

Totally worth it?

Adventures in Domesticity: The Pie

This post originally appeared on Facebook. I realized I have a lot of similar stories, and decided to make a series of it.

So today I got my homework done early, so I decided to make a casserole for dinner and do the laundry. I still had time in the evening, so I was like, hey, why not make a pie?
For some background, I had a bunch of frozen blueberries in the freezer and I had decided a few weeks ago that making a half-apple, half-blueberry pie in my divided pie plate was the most logical way to use them up before moving. I have no idea where I got that idea.
So I make the pie dough, and come across my first problem: my pie crust recipe makes enough for THREE TO SIX pies. THREE TO SIX, you guys! I started panicking and trying to think of contingency plans that would let me get rid of three to six pies in the space of a week.
Then I go to put the filling in the pie crust, and I realize I've made WAYYYYYY too much apple filling. So I'm like, no problem, I made about the same amount of blueberry filling, so I'll just make two pies. I thought I was halfway to solving problem #1.
Apple pie goes great. I put it in the freezer to make later in the week. Then I get out my other pie plate, and it's HUUUUUUUGE. Guys, I have no idea why it's so huge. But the blueberry filling only fills about 1/3 of the pie shell.
So I decide, okay, I'll stop by South End Market on the way to pick Mason up from work and buy more berries. Guys, blueberries are FIVE DOLLARS for a TINY LITTLE CARTON at South End. They're out of raspberries and I don't want to pit a trillion cherries at 9:30 pm, so I end up buying $7.50 worth of blackberries instead.
Now my blue- and blackberry pie is in the oven, an apple pie is in the freezer, I have some pie crust cookies ready to go, and my back hurts.
I have no idea why I thought blueberry pie would be the best way to get rid of my blueberries, but on the plus side, between the pies and the casserole I think I've completed 90% of the cooking I need to between now and moving.

Visiting the University Accessibility Center

This post is part of my Mental Health & University Series. To start from the beginning, click here.

After visiting a professional and being diagnosed with a mental health condition, it's often useful to visit the University Accessibility Center, or UAC. (Note: my goal by the end of this post is to spell "accessibility" correctly on the first try.)

The UAC can provide you with accommodations if your mental illness has a negative effect on your schoolwork. (It also provides accommodations for physical disabilities and other issues.) Some examples of accommodations are:

  • Someone to take notes for you in class.
  • Extra time on exams.
  • Exams divided into smaller sections, which are taken individually.
  • Flexibility with exam dates.
  • Leniency with absences.
  • Flexibility with due dates for assignments.
  • The ability to take exams in a distraction-free room.
A full list of accommodations available at BYU can be found here. Usually, students only need a few accommodations, but having them can make a world of difference.

I went a few semesters after getting diagnosed with depression and anxiety before visiting the UAC. During that time, some of my professors were willing to give me extensions on homework or exams after I explained the situation to them, but some of them were not. Having official UAC accommodations gives the professor a deeper obligation to provide you with the help you need.

When you receive the accommodations, you get a letter on official BYU letterhead addressed to each of your professors, which explains that the University Accessibility Center has determined that you need accommodations X, Y, and Z. Oftentimes, mental illness is seen as a less legitimate excuse than physical illness. This letter can help reassure your professor that you aren't just "making it all up." Furthermore, the letter doesn't give your professors any details about why you need the accommodations; just that you do, and how to go about providing them.

To meet with the UAC, you first need to fill out some intake paperwork, which is available here. The paperwork is really, really long, and trying to fill it out with a mental illness kind of feels like walking to the hospital to get your broken leg fixed. If you have trouble with motivation or attention span, I would suggest breaking it into small chunks, or enlisting the help of a friend or family member.

After that, you call them at 801-422-2767 and set up an appointment. At the time of your appointment, you need some sort of documentation of your disability, such as a letter from your counselor or a form filled out by a doctor. This documentation needs to be current — within the last two years for most mental illnesses, the last five years for ADHD, or the last seven years for a learning disorder. A full list of possible documentation can be found here.

During your appointment, they'll probably go over the intake paperwork with you. They also discuss how you're currently dealing with your condition, and what "strategies" you can use. Frankly, I found myself getting irritated during this discussion, but I understand why they have it; they don't necessarily know how many times you've seen a counselor, or whether your doctor discussed it with you beyond explaining how much medication to take. Accommodations can only go so far; you have to use them effectively.

Anyways, after they finish re-telling you how to manage your mental illness, they'll discuss accommodations with you and decide on which ones would be helpful. They'll ask you how many copies of the letter to your professor you'll need, and you come back in a few days to pick it up. The accommodations are valid for two years, and you can get letters every semester by asking at the front desk. After your accommodations have expired, you can meet with them again and get them renewed.

When you get the letter, it's up to you to deliver them to your professor. I personally felt a little awkward about it, but I found it was pretty low-key to just show up to class a few minutes early and hand them the letter while saying, "I was supposed to give this to you." If they want to talk about it, they will; if not, you can just go sit down.

Personally, I think visiting the UAC is a good idea so you can cover all of your bases and feel more legitimized in asking your professor for the help you need.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Things I Learned in English 316

My professor for my technical writing course last semester has ADHD, and he's great. This is a selection of things he's gone off topic about in class (representing about four lectures of tangents):
  • Robert Frost, TS Elliott, and Shakespeare. Specifically, several poems and soliloquies recited from memory, and what they said about death and suicide. "LIFE IS MEANINGLESS!"
  • How to troubleshoot your vintage Volkswagen Bug when it breaks down on your way to ski at Snowbird for $7. "So the damn thing stopped."
  • A class poll was taken to see how many people would be in favor of caffeinated beverages on campus. "I have a 12-pack of Diet Coke in my office."
  • Whether girls are really less shallow than guys, since they don't like to date men who are shorter than them.
  • Why his high school typing teacher was terrible, and how he had to take shorthand from her the next semester.
  • How he got into college without taking the ACT or the GRE.
  • A story about how he got "fired" from piano lessons at the age of 6, and no piano teacher in his town would take him on. "I thought it was great."
  • "This is a book I wrote about the history of prostitution..."
  • An explanation of how he's trying to cut down on swearing, except "damn" and "hell," which are in the Bible.
  • "Donald Trump just needs to grow up and realize he doesn't have any hair."
  • An explanation of how the word "bitching" has become more pejorative today than when he was our age.
  • "This is a picture of my foot in Moab..."
  • Diet Coke has a distinct smell compared to Pepsi, which is crap.
  • A detailed description of which documents he prefers to type and which he prefers to write by hand.
  • How is Keith Richards still alive with all the drugs he uses?
  • He's not afraid of bears, is totally fine with being 20-30 yards from a bear, but flying terrifies him.
  • Different types of old guns and how they work.
  • Different types of trees.
  • Different types of women's hairstyles.
  • Different types of mud.
  • Different types of deer.
  • The cost of parking in Seattle (which is apparently Bernie Sanders' fault).
  • How complicated recycling is (also Bernie Sanders' fault).
  • The merits of Orrin Hatch, who has never changed his mind about anything in his life.
  • How he bought a cherry pitter from a State Fair and couldn't figure out the instructions to assemble it.
  • How carburetors work, and how to maintain them in old cars.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

On "Defining Yourself By Your Sexuality"

So as I've said before, I'm bisexual.

That seems to make some people uncomfortable. Some people think I shouldn't talk about it at all; others think it's okay to talk about it, as long as I don't use the word "bisexual." The most common explanation I've heard for this idea is that calling myself bisexual means I'm defining myself by my sexuality.

I don't really get that. I'm not defining myself by my sexuality; I'm defining my sexuality by using the word in the English language that most accurately describes who I am attracted to. To me, coming up with a euphemism to describe my sexuality is unnecessary, because there's already a word for it — a word which, by the way, is completely neutral. "Bisexual" doesn't tell you anything more about me than "experiences same and opposite gender attraction" does, and it has the advantage of being 34 letters shorter.

Frankly, I don't think it's anyone's business whether I talk about my sexuality, or how much, or why. However, I will say that I feel like it's an important conversation to have. Far too often, especially in an LDS community, conversations about LGBT issues occur when straight, cis people talk to other straight, cis people about this group of "other" people. And while many of these conversations are well-meaning, the fact that they primarily occur among non-LGBT people contributes to a feeling of othering. It's much easier to accidentally say something insensitive about a nameless, faceless group of people than it is to say that thing about someone you know.

For this reason, I felt uncomfortable talking about LGBT issues when people assumed I was straight. I felt like I was perpetuating the problem instead of helping to solve it.

(Plus, I'm not uncomfortable with my sexuality, and having to censor all the pun opportunities it affords me simply because I hadn't said the words "I'm bisexual" to anyone was just really annoying.)

You don't have to agree with or understand why I chose to come out, but at any rate, I'm going to use the word "bisexual" when my sexuality is relevant to something I'm trying to say.  And if you have a problem with that, I just want to make one thing clear:

If you think that after one word, you know anything about how I feel about my sexuality — if you think you know what choices I've made about it — if you think you can make assumptions about the state of my marriage because of it — if you think you know my feelings on Church doctrine or policy — if you think you can make assumptions about my activity in the Church — if you think my sexuality is going to be an issue — if you think I'm being "divisive" somehow — if you feel like you know what role it plays in my life — 

And if any of the things you think after just hearing the word "bisexual" make you so uncomfortable that you feel the need to tell me I shouldn't use that word —

The issue isn't that I'm "defining myself by my sexuality."

The issue is that you are.