Michael Aaron

Build Up and Love Our Community

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Michael AaronAs a great singer-songwriter-philosopher says:
I want your love and
I want your revenge
You and me could write a bad romance

She couldn’t be more right.

We live at a time and in a state where there are deep chasms between groups of people with differing views, with differing ethnicities, with differing sexual orientations. The political rhetoric is at a high-pitched squeal, and fear and hate are commonplace. We could write a bad romance.

This is the time and this is the place where we need to come together, learn from each other, and build – not burn – bridges.

Six years ago, the Utah Legislature passed a Constitutional amendment that made it so, not only can gay and lesbian people not marry the partner of their choice, but we cannot even have second-class relationship status. Two-thirds of the state’s voters ratified the amendment and it is now law.

Is this building bridges?

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has pulled out all the stops to restrict marriage to their own view of what it should be, and in the process deny to gay and lesbian couples over 1000 governmental rights that marriage affords.

Is this building bridges?

Next month, openly-gay Confessions of a Mormon Boy actor Stephen Fales will be onstage at the Rose Wagner Theater, will don sacred Mormon garments, and will reveal sacred Mormon Temple ceremony secrets.

Is this building bridges?

I say many of our actions are only making our bad romance worse.
But I also see thoughtful efforts at trying to build our relationships.

A few years ago, the openly-gay Salt Lake Men’s Choir flew to Washington, D.C. (at its members’ own expense) to sing at the National Cathedral at its quadrennial Utah Day alongside not-so-pro-gay Rev. France Davis of Calvary Baptist Church.

That is building bridges.

For nearly a year, representatives of the LDS Church and a so-called “Gang of Five” gay and lesbian leaders have been meeting to get to understand each other better.

That is building bridges.

For over a decade, the LDS Church has been donating food to Camp Pinecliff, an annual camp for people affected by HIV and AIDS.

That is building bridges.

This month a friend is recovering from surgery on his shoulder and the bishop of his Utah County LDS ward offered help with his everyday chores, like yard work and grocery shopping, as he healed. The bishop said his being gay didn’t mean that the neighbors wouldn’t be willing to help out.

That is building bridges.

These are the stories we need to hear more of. These are the stories that will help heal the divisiveness, fear and anger between us.

But we also need to heal divisions within our own community.

This week, the website Salty Gossip presented a story of a young gay man fighting domestic violence and public intoxication charges. The 68 comments that appeared after the story over the next 24 hours were some of the most bitter, hateful and spiteful bile I have ever read. I nearly bawled that our people could be so disgusting to one another in a public forum, much less face-to-face. The site’s owner had the good sense to pull the whole story.

Is this building our community or tearing us down?

QSaltLake published a letter from a young man who left Salt Lake, moving to Seattle, because a fellow-gay family member was spreading his HIV-positive status to all of his friends, many of whom went on to shun him rather than support him through what was obviously a difficult time.

Is this building our community or tearing us down?

Newly-out gay men – both young and old – enter into this community with trepidation. Many are leaving the support of family and friends and, rather than being embraced and welcomed into our community, they find themselves shunned for being any multitude of things – too old, lacking fashion sense, socially awkward, having less-than-stunning-model looks, too skinny.

Is this building our community or tearing us down?

We grew up in a culture where people help others when they are in need.

A friend’s garage burned down, and his neighbors showed up with hammers and saws to help rebuild.

That helps build our community.

If someone has a death in the family, we are inundated with Jell-O salads and funeral potatoes.

That helps build our community.

I was asked this morning, at what point in our coming out process do we shed our upbringing and become bitter, spiteful and hateful?

I’m not saying every gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender person is bitter and hateful. But too many are. And it is accepted as being part of our experience.

That has to change.

We need to be better to each other. We need to send out a helping hand or a shoulder to people battling addictions or depression or who are HIV positive. We need to call the bitterness, hurtfulness and spitefulness what it is – it’s ugly and it’s unacceptable.

We need to build our community. We need to offer newly-out people a safe space in their new surroundings. Safe from judgment. Safe from the encouragement of addictive behaviors. We need to show them that there are other avenues in our community than diving headfirst into alcoholism, promiscuity and drug addiction.

The infrastructure is actually already here. In our community there are organizations for almost any interest you might have.

There is a group for people who like to garden. There are organizations for gay parents. For wine lovers, for classic car enthusiasts.

One of the largest swimming organizations is the state is QUAC. One of the largest bowling leagues is Goodtimes Bowling League. There is a softball league, a tennis group, basketball league.

There are groups for people who like to hike, for naturists, for campers, and people who like to read books.

There are spiritual organizations and churches which welcome gay and lesbian people.

There is a group of flag twirlers which performs all over the country. SimplySocial meets on Wednesdays and goes to dinner. There are Spicy dinner parties that happen all over the Wasatch Front.

The Salt Lake Men’s Choir is 50 of the best people you will ever meet.

If you want to find these groups, check the blue section of TheQPages, which are all over town and we brought a bunch here.

We need to direct newly-out people, lonely people, depressed people, people at risk for hurtful addictions to these groups.

We need to help build these organizations and help to make even more.
We need to support them with our presence and our dollars.

In the singer-songwriter-philospher’s words:
Rah, rah, ah ah ah
Roma roma ma
Gaga, ooh la la.

That translates to:

We need to build up and love our community;
we need to build up and love our friends;
and we need to build up and love ourselves.

Michael Aaron

Michael Aaron is the editor and publisher of QSaltLake. He has been active in Utah's gay and lesbian community since the early 80s and published two publications then and in the 90s.

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  1. Thank you, Michael. I sometimes find myself feeling a little bitter and it’s wisdom like this that helps me to realize, I DON’T HAVE TO BE! Instead, I now choose to be grateful. Thank you for your leadership in our community and know that you, by being who you are, are building bridges. I love you.

  2. Michael, I have longed to hear such words for a long time on this site. We do not have to be disagreeable even when we strongly disagree. So many of the blogs comments and even articles are hateful, rude and only widen the chasms that we should be trying to close. A little respect and kindness go a long way towards understanding, or at least getting along together.

  3. Hooray! You said it! And you said it so well. I am a fence-sitter – one who is gay and also active in my LDS faith. I love my LDS heritage, and I also believe many parts of this faith to be true. My faith makes me a better person.

    It saddens me when I see Church members attack the gay community in various ways. I don’t believe this to be under the direction of the Church. But surely the Church can do a whole lot more to direct their members in how they should act towards GLBT people. I find that most LDS members just don’t know how they are supposed to respond – and they look to sources other than their conscience for this direction.

    What hurts me even more is when I am rejected by people within my own GLBT community who resent the fact that I maintain an LDS affiliation. I believe I can do more good for both communities by remaining within both. LDS members need to associate more with gay people in order to realize for themselves the goodness of gay people. Unfortunately, they are left with very few examples within the Church, because being both “out” and “in” at the same time is a precarious path.

    As Carol Lynn Pearson has stated, “I love the Mormon community … and I have a unique opportunity to build bridges.”

    Hopefully more LDS gay reformers can rise within the confines of the Church and make a difference from within, because too often I fear, the difference being made from without does us little favors.

  4. Great! You said it! And you said it so well. We – the GLBT community – have a lot to learn about diplomacy at times. The LDS Church is undoubtedly very good, and professional, at getting what they want. There is a lot we can learn from them about playing their game the same way if we want to get what we want.

    It saddens me that there are very few pro-gay reformers within the Church, which I think would make the greatest difference to LDS members who seem baffled by the whole gay-dilemma, and who look for direction from leadership within the Church rather than from within their consciences.

    As Carol Lynn Pearson notes, “I love the Mormon community … and I have a unique opportunity to build bridges.”

    Three cheers to those of us brave enough to be “out” while remaining within. These are the ones able to make the greatest difference, but I am no fool to the precarious path these reformers walk.

  5. This is a powerful message. One that should be shared far and wide especially in bars, clubs, chat rooms and comment sections; places frequently at odds with the needs of the individual.

    ANDY – Salt Lake, UT

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