MMB

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Dear Ellen, Thank You

Dear Ellen,

I wanted to write you a blog post this weekend, and thank you for the Puppy Episode, 20 years ago. I know it's extremely unlikely that you will ever read this post, but I've delayed until the last minute writing it this weekend because I felt you deserved perfection in my words.

At some point this evening, I gave up on perfection, because I figured it was better to write something imperfect than to never write anything expressing my gratitude at all.

Since your sitcom about Ellen Morgan ran 3 seasons, I'm guessing I was about 12 when my mom and I started watching the show. I loved the show. I loved the time I spent watching it with my mom. And I loved Ellen Morgan. I related to her a lot, and I loved her fashon  sense.  By the way, Ellen Degeneres, I love your fashon sense even more. You are my style icon, or whatever. I love it!

Any way, I don't know what night the show was on, and I'm not going to look it up, because it would ruin my memory of it. And my memory of it, says it was on Thursday nights. Memory is very unreliable, even if you have a good one, so I'm not placing any bets on that being correct.

But Friday, friday was 20 years since the episode where your character came out. I was 15. I have never forgot that night, because  it made me feel so many things, excited, happy, outed a bit myself because I related so much to the character, and mostly just very secretly glad it happened.

As a young devout Mormon teenager, I don't know what would have happened if me and my mom would have been able to have a conversation about the show that night, or even if it hadn't been the last time we watched it together. That was a sad moment to me, because until I was 30 that was the last episode I saw.  Having now seen the other episodes, I think those could have been helpful for me and my mom to watch together, helpful for our future.

I had many confusing years ahead. Maybe now Kristen Stewart can say it's not confusing if your bisexual, but I found it confusing for a very long time. But there were a lot of complicated reasons for that.

Any way, in my early 30s, going to counseling and finally coming out, I went back and watched The Puppy Episode, and all the episodes after it, and it was a big deal for me. It was a gift I had waited 15 years  finally recieve. It meant the world to have a character I related to on some level as a 15 year old, and it meant even more to me, and I related even more as a 30 year old.

I love your daytime show, I love dory, I love your books, but I will always be most greatful for The Puppy episode, and all the episodes that followed it.

Thanks again for all the crap you went through to bring it to the world, and happy 20th anniversary of the episode.

Your random blog writing fan,
Mandi

Monday, April 24, 2017

Community

"The worst fear you can have is losing your faith, because then you are not accepted by anyone. Not by those that consider themselves secular, or by people of your own faith... ever since we could  remember, our religion has defined every single action we have taken. If one day I lose my faith it would be like dying and having to start new again in a world without guarantees."
- Reading Lolita in Tehran

When I read that quote from RLT, I had to pause and read it again. I was shocked at how in that one instance, people in a bool, who's experience I hadn't really connected to, summed up one of the most frightening feelings of my life.

Having grown up in the LDS church, and in Utah I learned and earned most of my socialization from and at church and church activities. One of my greatest fears when on my way out of the church was that probably, even living in Washington state, 99% of my friends and social activities were at or from church, and I wasn't sure I knew  how to really socialize  outside that context. I didn't know where I would find community, or who I would turn to when I needed help, or life was too much for me, or where I could go that people would understand my experiences having been so dedicated to the LDS Faith all my life and then leaving it.

I have non lds co workers, who are great people, mostly christians, but I've always had to explain my Mormon culture to them. So even though I knew I would have their support, it still felt like it would be too lonely of a proposition to walk away.

But, I had a friend tell me about a local group that met, for former and unorthodox Mormons. This was when I was still active and believing. It was wonderful  to have a place to talk about experiences and frustrations and issues and not be judged. My issues were not the same as their issues, and their issues, in many cases never became my issues. But it was a community, a community that understood, that helped eachother when needed, that helped people move, and brought meals when someone was sick, or sad.

It was a framework of community that reflected my culture growing up. And as I left the church, they were my safety net of unconditional love when the fear of fall out from family and friends terrified me. And sometimes those fears came true and friends were lost, and family relationships wounded. And people that understood were there for me.

It made all the difference in the world, as the uncertainty and newness of life unfolded before me. It's hard to grapple with belief and loss of some beliefs, and figuring out what you truly believe, and losing some of the certainty of things you always believed before.  But having this group of friends gave me a secure base to explore my new world. And that security gave me confidence to be brave and bold and press forward.

As many of us moved forward in our journey, we helped eachother also find answers to questions like "how do I find opportunities to do service in the greater community and world without the church or ward organizing it for me?"

As people in our group asked this question opportunities showed up, and with the support of eachother, we jumped right in, sometimes organizing our own personal projects to help make the world nicer for everyone to live in.

Because I have this group, this community, I also felt confident to start volunteering with my soccer team, and pride and queer organizations, and other personal interests not related to the religion I grew up in. And it's been wonderful for me to be able to have time to be involved in things I am passionate about.

So, I guess the point of this post is to first express my gratitude to that group for making that transition so much less scary, and for providing a safe base for me to explore the world from. And the second point of this blog, is that if anyone else is in that position, where that quote resonates with you, where you are afraid of losing your tribe because you are questioning your faith...
Know that there is a tribe of questioners that stay in the faith, and you can find them too. And there is a tribe for questioners that leave the faith, and there is a tribe for all the questioners everywhere in between.

It is overwhelming have a faith transition, or a faith crisis. It is sometimes very scary, and very overwhelming. But you are not alone, and you will not be left community-less,  there is a community for people just like you. 

If you dont live near me and are wondering how to find like minded folk, try this website. http://www.mormonspectrum.org/

Thanks again to  my friends who have been there for me, in and out of the church, and everything in between.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Trolling vs Engaging When Disagreeing On Social Media

Earlier today, I posted this on my Facebook.

"FYI, I no longer engage trolls. So if you choose to troll my posts, I will chose to delete trolling comments. I will keep disagreeing comments that show a willingness to engage in thoughtful, empathetic conversation. If your disagreement doesn't meet that standard, it will promptly disappear from my wall/posts."

I also promised to follow this up with acceptable, and unacceptable examples. I want it understood, that I'm not trying to shut down anyone disagreeing with me on social media. I am setting a boundary for what type of disagreement I will allow.

I don't like fighting with people, especially people I know and love.  Things can get heated, personal, and end friendships in situations like this, and that is what I want to avoid.

What I don't want to avoid is thoughtful, empathetic engagement with other view points. I don't believe Facebook is the best space for that to happen, because most situations quickly loose their thoughtfulness.

I also, don't post things on facebook for anyone's benefit but my own. So wether or not you particularly agree with something I post, I don't think is generally my business, unless you want to be in solidarity of agreement with me, or share information that is respectful but broadening of my viewpoint.

For example, if I post on Facebook that 'Pizza is the best! And milk chocolate is disgusting!' This is my opinion. It's my wall, I can express that opinion. It's a valid opinion, and I don't feel like I have to defend my opinions to everyone that disagrees with them. I don't need to convince you of my view. I'm telling you what my view is, and you can agree, or disagree and that's fine. If you post a comment it shouldn't be disrespectful or invalidating of my opinion I posted on my wall.

You are free to post an opposite opinion on your wall, and hope I read it and rethink things. You can post a comment on my post in solidarity, or you can engage with me, and try to understand why I feel the way I do, and then perhaps try to change my mind. But before you try to change my mind, you should try to understand my mind.

So examples of what would be trolling my post:
"Pizza is horrible! You are disgusting"
"Milk chocolate is the best! What is wrong with you?"
"You're wrong! Milk chocolate isn't disgusting!!"

When stating disagreement online, we have to think first about why are we disagreeing.

1) we think the person is misinformed, and with the right information will come to your side, or at least move to a more middle ground

2) we have set up an us vs them situation in our head, and the fact that someone you love has posted something that you disagree with makes you feel betrayed, because they are not on your team

3) because you like to argue with people

4) because you want to create empathy for people with a different experience or opinion in life. (For instance if I also posted that people that love milk chocolate are less healthy  and less intelligent than people that prefers dark chocolate)

So... If you are a #3 person, I'm gonna delete your comments. That's all. 

If you are a #2, you can engage thoughtfully  and not get comments deleted by saying something along these lines and engaging.

"Really? You don't like milk chocolate? This makes me a little sad, because milk chocolate is my favorite. It's a big part of  what brings me joy  in life. Did you have a bad experience? How does milk chocolate taste to you, that would cause you not to enjoy it?"
     
       See what has happened here? You have engaged me. You have said your feelings, and why it's important to you, but you have opened a dialog to find out why I feel as I do, and also learn a bit more about me. Upon questioning me, you find that I struggle with the waxy  and overly sugared taste of milk chocolate mostly occurring in the United States, but I will still eat a Snickers or a Twix, or European milk chocolate on occasion. I just like the bitter and more intruginge flavors of dark chocolate more. I don't like sugar as much as you do, but we have some common ground, and have gained empathy for eachother view points, broke down the us vs them mentality, and actually strengthened our friendship.

Actually, this example works for reasons 1 and 4 as well.  If you think I am wrong in not liking milk chocolate, then you need to find out why I don't like it before you can ever hope to change my mind. If you find out the reason why, and see that it's the waxy sugar thing, but that's what you love about it, then  we will never agree, but hopefully, because we engaged in thoughtful and empathetic conversation, we can appreciate our differences as part of the spice and diversity of life. 

If you can't accept that I don't like that flavor and taste, and continue to try to force me to enjoy the same taste you do, it becomes trolling again, your comment gets deleted  and the conversation ends, with a bad taste in both our mouths, so it may have been best just to hide my post, vent to a fellow milk chocolate lover, think I'm strange. And let it go.

Two other important senarios:

5-  you are a good friend, teasing and joking with me.  In this instance, please follow with a winky emoji ;) so I know your tone is that of a sibling, and you are just having some fun.

6- if in my comments I have said something that is ignorant and hurtful to a group of people that I am not a part of.

In which case, please comment publicly with kindness, and in a way that helps me generate empathy. For example

"Generalizing about the health  of people that like milk chocolate is very hurtful. Some very healthy people also enjoy milk chocolate. Some people who are not in good health also enjoy milk chocolate, it brings joy to their life. Other people eat milk chocolate because of stress and things like that, and heaping shame on them makes their burden heavier.

(Right here is where most people calling people out go wrong- tell me something I can do to improve my comments, don't just rip them apart and say I am hurting people and I'm an insensitive jerk)

...  It would be helpful if  you could not make broad generalizations about people's health. I know you weren't trying to be hurtful, but this could have a real negative impact on someone in a very personal way, and i would just like you to consider how you would feel if you were them when posting.

Or something like that. Obviously, I'm illustratating this with things that are not very serious, and that probably wouldn't actually spark controversy. I chose this instead of something more decisive like political things, or the actual cause of this post - the United Airlines thing (I got multiple comments saying "you're wrong" or "this article is wrong!") Because I wanted to illustrate with things that aren't going to already have people up in arms just by the example.

I hope this had been informative and helpful to understanding my new rules and requirements for engaging disagreements on social media- primarily Facebook. I am not perfect in this myself, and I have accidently become a troll at times as well. Which makes me feel yucky after.

So let's just all try to improve in our engagement. I will be deleting posts that I feel are flaming, or trolling, or trying to incite contention, whether it was intended or not. I'm not going to sit back and watch things spiral out of control any more, it causes me too much anxiety.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

The Rumor Mill

Hello,

From time to time, I am  going to write blog posts addressing things concerning my leaving the LDS faith, and how I feel as an "ExMo."  I write these to address things that are getting back to me as misinterpretations of my experience by friends and family. I recognize that the people that most need to understand the things I am writing here, will never read it. 

However, conversations with those people reveal that the rumor mill is alive and active about me, and so, if you the reader could, put these facts into that mill, so hopefully it will disseminate to those needing clarification (my friends, and my family), that do not actually desire to discuss it with me directly. I will not be writing anything here that will be demeaning to anyone's faith, or put down the church. I am simply clarifying some things that keep coming up in regards to my choices personally.  Thank you for your assistance with this matter.

So, earlier this week, a friend of mine texted me that she was glad that my engagement had fallen through, because she hoped it would mean I would come back to the church. That sparked this blog.

The fallacy that my friends hope is operating on is a common misunderstanding perpetuated frequently by talks and other things by high up LDS leadership. That being that people are leaving the church so that they can "Sin"  Anyone who has had a real conversation with people who have left the church would understand that this is generally not true.

 Most people, do not leave the church so that they can "sin."  Rather, they leave the church generally because of getting a different answer  on truth claims, history,or doctrine,  of the church that they feel they can not morally stand behind in honesty any more, and thus must go their separate way.  The social,and familial repercussions most people who leave the church face are deep enough that nothing so shallow as "wanting to sin"  would be reason enough to face that pain and rejection.

There is also a persistent fallacy that people leave the church because they were offended by the imperfect body of saints that are members of the church. i.e. a local leader, people in their ward or stake.   I have yet to meet anyone that left the church because they were offended by local congregants. I have seen people go inactive sometimes for that reason, in connection with bigger more serious doubts as to church teachings, but never in isolation to   "so and so offended me, so I am done"

 More often, if people are offended by a person in the church its coming from the top, things that the highest leaders are teaching,  that we can recognize are being followed by local congregants. That doesn't mean we've never been hurt or offended by local leaders and church members, but in general, its not someones biggest or only reason for leaving the church. So often when we hear "the church is perfect but the members are not, will you please come back now?"  the response you may get is, "Well actually I love my local member friends deeply they weren't my problem, the church was"  The general consensus is that Mormons are very nice people for the most part, that do a lot of really great and wonderful things in their community and outside of it.

For me personally, I will take this moment to clarify, that I didn't leave the church because someone locally offended me.  Yes, I had some hurtful interactions, before, during, and since leaving, but I also still deeply love and appreciate my LDS friends, and have had just as many if not more wonderful experiences interacting with them.

I also didn't leave the church to be in a relationships with a woman. I didn't leave the  church to marry a woman. I actually started dating women long before I left the church, and I felt right with that before God, as we had dialoged much about it in prayer. I wouldnt have ever dated a woman, if i believed it was wrong. I started dating women, because I disnt believe it was wrong, and i knew it would work better for me than continuing to date men i couldnt be in an honest and reciprocoI loving relationship with.

I recognized that I probably would eventually be excommunicated because of that and church policy, but  even with the November 5th policy, that wouldn't have changed anything for me.  What did change for me was the policy's lines about children of same sex married couples. Ultimately i chose to leave the church rather than be excomunicated, to take ownership of my own moral convictions and beliefs.

  For me, the policy drew a hard line in the sand, where after much thought and prayer I just realized that my beliefs and the churches beliefs on this matter were irreconcilable and i was no longer at a point that I could ignore that and pretend other wise after a life time of trying.  I had to be true to what I truly felt and believed and respectfully go my own way.

Upon this decision, I spend some time pondering, What if they are right, and what if I am wrong. And I came to the decision that that doesn't matter to me. I was also done pretending that the Celestial kingdom I had been taught of was any concept of the afterlife I wanted.  In fact, I found it would meet the definition of my personal Hell.  So I was done. and I resigned, even though I knew this would be hard on my family and friends, and myself in many ways, because I had to do what I felt was right and true and the best course for me.  And I love and respect those who stay because they feel it is the best course for them.

 Ultimately if it is true, you can visit me at a lower kingdom if you feel so inclined any way, as I was taught many many times in my life, people from high post earthly kingdoms have the privilege of doing. 

 But I would appreciate it, if anyone thinking that they can friendship me back in the church would stop. I am 99% sure I am not coming back. I leave 1% because i can not ever with complete certainty say that there is nothing that would ever convince me to return, but at this point in life it is extremely unlikely, and I would appreciate it if people would not try to friendship me back into the church. I was an extremely active Mormon, and I can tell when people are doing that, and its very annoying, and your conditions of friendship/love are very transparent to me, and it feels insincere. I have many friends that are my genuine friends, and I can tell they are my genuine friends, and I love them so much for that, and I am sorry to cause them any pain for my exit of the faith. If I could have spared them that pain, I would have loved to.  I mourn with them in that pain, and then we move forward with life.


Next, I would like to just address that  I am incredibly happy now. I like my life, and the opportunity I now have, the freedom I now have to decided for myself what is true, and what i am OK with leaving as a blank space or grey area, and what I don't feel is true at all. I still have a clear morality, and I didn't go crazy upon leaving and not being told what is or isn't right. I like to take the time and think these things out myself, and most of the principles i was taught in my upbringing have stuck. I feel it is very important to be honest, to be kind, to do good, to help others, to keep my body and mind healthy. etc.

Now, I have spoken ad nausem about why I left the church, and the reasons most people who leave the church do not actually have for leaving the church.  I want to address any regrets people may think I might have about my membership.

 As I have spoken to people about this, I have gotten many questions about if I regret my mission, or if I regret the way I was raised, or my time in the church, if I wish I had left sooner.  

Mostly, No.  I do not.  I would love to have not had the pain of internalized homophobia growing up, or being surrounded with negative statements that made me feel I was broken, that i needed to be fixed, or that kept me from connecting to people like my cousin or others of the LGBT community, which would have helped me be less depressed and have less suicide idealation growing up and even into my early thirty's.

I do not regret being a missionary for the LDS church. I loved my mission. there were hard things, and there were good things, and over all I would say I gained wonderful and worth while experience and friendships from it. I don't regret that I taught people, and they were baptized. I think that for those the church works for, it can be an amazingly positive addition to their lives, and give them a wonderful community of some of the nicest people in the world. I would say most, if not all the people I taught that it didn't work for, have since left the church and are happy in life, as are those that it worked for that stayed in.

Mormonism is a part of my culture and world lens. It always will be. I am always grateful for the things that I gained, the confidence I gained as a missionary, from learning public speaking, from ward choirs that taught me how to sing, and read music (kind of), that helped me cultivate talents, and friendships, that taught me to be honest, and to be kind to others, from the many wonderful experiences I gained doing service.

If there is anything I could get back, I probably would like my tithing money back, because most of it doesn't go to the things I would like it to have gone to, and I would like to use that money as I see fit, but i consider it part of the cost of the things I gained, so its fine.

The only grudge, I guess you can say I have against the church, is the unnecessary wall that it creates in my personal relationships with my family and some friends. I think it often takes an extraordinary amount of time and dialog to get past that, and has created some real barriers to a genuine relationship for me as someone outside the church,as a former member, with some inside the church.

 I think a lot of this comes from fear that I, or people like me, will try to pull you away from your faith, or bring you down. I have no desire to do that.  For the most part, people who have experienced a faith crisis and then change, have no desire to inflict that pain on anyone else. It is at times, when you are in that crisis, quite painful to confront all these feelings and conflicts with your beliefs and what you have spent your whole life believing.  

Its not my place to put you through that. It would be nice if no one ever had to go through that,  but I am glad I did because it helped me to grow immensely as a person, and has brought me out the other side to a place of deep joy, peace, and confidence in my self and humanity in a broader sense with or without religion in individuals lives.  If someone is going through that, I am willing to support them through it, even if the come to a different conclusion at the end of it than I.

ultimately I still deeply believe in the article of faith that states basically that "we claim the privilege of worshiping God (or not) according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men (women, and other genders) the same privilege let them worship how, where or what they may"

And I will leave it at that. I think that answers most of the questions that have come up recently. If you have any more, please send them my way.

Tale As Old As Time: My Thoughts On Beauty and the Beast (spoiler alert)

*This blog post will feature numerous spoilers for the Live Action Beauty and the Beast Film, please do not read it if you do not want spoilers and have not seen the film*


 I loved the new live action Beauty and the Beast.  Though not perfect, I enjoyed it a lot.  I especially enjoyed the music and have been listening to the soundtrack pretty much non stop.  This has got me thinking   (sings) "A dangerous past time I know" 

A few things have become apparent to me, perhaps with the help of this fan theory about a time loop that connected the dots for me a little more. 

so, first thing I realized is that Gaston is kind of a shadow figure of the Beast.  Because of the back story we got on the Beast and how the curse came about, its quite clear that the qualities that got him and his castle, and town cursed were quite similar to the qualities held by Gaston. Cruelness, vanity, shallow obsession with looks, complete lack of concern for anyone else.  The reasons he became this way, and that he could be redeemed were made clear in the film. With Gaston, he is a two dimensional caricature of only the beasts worst qualities, and with no real hope of redemption. Thus it is the thing that actually brakes the curse isn't directly that the beast truly loves belle, and bell truly loves him back, it is more that because  he loved belle, and she came back for him his hart was changed and rather than fighting with Gaston, and showing that cruelness etc in his actions, he shows compassion, and walks away from the fight. Gaston dies because of his own choices, and in no way at the Beasts hand.  The Beast is killed by Gaston, but is redeemed by the enchantress after walking away from a symbolic/literal  representation of the worst parts of his former self - Gaston.  I think that's an important thing to realized, but not the big thing.


So The big thing came about because I was thinking about how horrible it is that the Village and all the servants in the castle were cursed because of the choices and actions of their ruler, the Prince, the Beast.  This is horribly unfair of the enchantress, and just didn't seem right to me. As the film progresses the Beast is truly sorry for bringing this curse on others, but is trapped by his shame and guilt in a way that didn't allow him to break out of it, until someone from outside that curse came in and stood up to him.  

So my thoughts initially on why the servants were cursed (at this point I hadn't considered the villagers), were that it was because they did nothing to stand up to the Prince and correct his ways, they let him get away with the horrible things he did. However it struck me that this is not an equal relationship, so its not fair to expect those servants to risk their own safety and jobs and well beings and that of their families to stand up to this powerful man. Nor would it have done any good. They would have been worse off, and the Prince/ Beast unchanged.

 Then a thought hit me... throughout history we can look at example after example and see the same thing. When a tyrant reigns, when cruel and compassion-less people are in charge  the entirety of the people under their charge suffer. Now, this plays into the time loop theory, because under oppressive rulers the marginalized, the people that are different (belle and her father for instance) suffer the most, but everyone suffers.  Stuck in that time loop, we do not move forward, we do not advance. We are all trapped, until love can set us free.  

Also, under cruel leaders, people become more cruel. As with Gaston and the mob, the people were content to let bell and her father be locked up unjustly so they could go "kill the beast" some creature they knew nothing about, except for the lies that Gaston told them, based off pure imagination and his desire for the kill. This happens in real society, often tyrannical leaders scapegoat some group or type of people and go for blood. What Gaston really wanted was power, and control, and his fight,his trophy, his chance to defeat the Beast, in a way another type of himself, at least earlier in the story.   

Ultimately  the servants in the castle  used active and passive resistance, and open defiance  to create the opportunities that put belle and the beast in a position to set everyone free from the curse if the Beasts tyrany.

When tyrants reign over us, we are all injured by their actions, we are all cursed. Even if,like the villagers, we have not idea, or awareness that we are so cursed.  And that for me, was the biggest lesson I have gained from this film. 

Other things I noticed that I had a problem with, are that not only in this film and the animated series, but in most English and American films, we do not represent people from their country or culture with actors from that country or culture, but with Americans or English actors. Even though its set in France, only one character even has a french accent, Lumiere, and he is played by a British actor. Why couldn't we have had French actors?  I think it would have been better if we had done this from the start. The reason I am OK to look the other way this time is 1) I loved Emma Watson as belle, mainly because I love Emma Watson. 2) If Mrs. Potts hadn't had a cockney accent, a part of my childhood would have felt super offended. 

I hope in Mulan, they will actually cast Chinese actors. This problem needs to be fixed. 

Any way, those are my deep thoughts on Beauty and the Beast.