Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Balcony of Life

The Balcony of Life

Standing on the corner of 8th and Idaho street, there are two men handing out pamphlets calling people to repentance. The pamphlets quote the Bible and name homosexuality and other sexual behaviors as sinful and name all sorts of eternal consequences. Most people ignore them, or throw the pamphlets in the trash. The reason they have chosen this corner to hand out their righteous indignation is because right above them is one of the trendiest places in Boise, its on the second level and it’s called The Balcony and it overlooks the street. The Balcony is a gay bar that is straight friendly. You can sit on the patio of The Balcony and watch the night life move at a fun pace on a weekend.  There is a three dollar cover charge to get into the Balcony, well worth it. It is ten o’clock and people are just arriving. Some people dress up, there are a few women in princess dresses, one woman in a wedding dress. I see a man all in black, he has a black fedora on with black goggles on his hat, a black leather vest and no shirt. His black gloves have green and pink lights in the finger tips and when he dances his hands light up the dance floor.
There are some transvestites and some people are gender neutral. Most people are there just to dance, drink and have fun. I’m there for a birthday party of an ex-mormon and there are about 20 of  us. We are drinking and dancing and just enjoying life. Like most gatherings of ex-mormons, there is some talk of how it feels to leave the mormon church, but tonight I just want to feel like a human, so I avoid this talk.

After two hours of dancing, I’m  tired and I sit on the patio with Ray and watch the night life below and the people dance inside. The people inside are of every age group; there are people in their 20’s and all the way up to their 60’s; there are people of every race as well as every gender. Nobody gives a shit or seems to notice the differences. In this place, we are all just humans having a good time.

This is the hope of the future, that we can learn to be human together.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

New Life and Eostre

Today, I took my atheist 17 year old daughter to Easter brunch. We were talking about the holiday and its origins and how the spring equinox, eggs, bunnies, all represent fertility.  My daughter started to laugh and asked me if I remember how it was my fault that she didn't have any Mormon friends in elementary school because of Easter.

I didn't know what she was talking about, so I asked her to explain. She recalled how I would teach her and her sisters about the true history of Christianity and Easter, how the Christians were practical people and would incorporate pagan practices into their worship, such as Eostre, or new birth, new life, which eggs, rabbits and Estres or Eostre represent.

Of course, being the young child that she was, would take her new found knowledge to school and tell her Mormon friends all about the real beginnings of Easter. Her Mormon friends would be all horrified and in disbelief and would not talk to such a heathen as her and she couldn't understand, at such a young age, why these Mormon girls would not talk to her after that.

Now, years later, she has left the Mormon church and religion all together. She can tease her Mom for not having Mormon friends in elementary school for teaching her the truth about Easter. We eat Easter brunch in honor of fertility and new life, paying homage to our new life.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Modesty and CPR

Because modesty is more important than life, right?

As I was taking my CPR and first aid class, a woman, who happened to be Mormon,  became overly concerned about the modesty of a person who is unconscious and dying. You see, when CPR and an EAD is administered , it is necessary to take all clothing off the chest area. This Mormon lady wanted to leave the bra on an unconscious woman to cover her breasts so she wouldn't be exposed as her life is being saved.

Evidently, god cares more about a woman exposing her breasts than her life being saved.

The CPR teacher tried to explain the necessity of removing the bra when using the EAD, as the EAD will leave burns if any metal is touching the skin when electrical shocks are applied. Maybe Mormon women would rather have burns on their breasts rather than have their breast exposed during life saving procedures.

First responders may not be able to do their job if they are exposed to breasts while saving a life.

With an EAD, for every 10 minutes that is lost in not using an EAD,  there is  a 10% less chance of saving the victims life. I get the impression from this Mormon lady that it is more important to maintain modesty than increase the chances of saving a life.

Remember, ladies, wear a medic alert bracelet that tells the first responders that you are allergic to immodesty.

As I listened to this woman argue about protecting a woman's modesty, I am once again reminded how silly this argument is in our society to cover women up. In hospitals, ERs, emergency room, as well as in art classes, the human body is considered form and function that is studied and uncovered on a regular basis.

In religion, however, the human form is to be shamed and feared.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Social Voyeurism

My 13 year old came to me after her interview with the bishop. I was in the process of having a spiritual crisis, as was my daughter, but this was just over the top. She was being interviewed to do baptisms for the dead and the bishop asked the usual questions, but he threw in a new one and my daughter was surprised, shocked and didn't even know how to answer, since she didn't even know what he was talking about. He asked her if she was having anal sex. Now I get the privilege of explaining anal sex to my innocent, naive daughter. Thanks, bishop, :::sarcasm:::: for opening the eyes of a once innocent girl who didn't need to know this when she wasn't even dating, let alone sexually active.

I looked up the definition of a voyeur, since I this seems to fit into the category. This, from wikipedia:

Voyeurism is the sexual interest in or practice of spying on people engaged in intimate behaviors, such as undressing, sexual activity, or other actions usually considered to be of a private nature.[1]
The principal characteristic of voyeurism is that the voyeur does not normally relate directly with the subject of his/her interest, who is often unaware of being observed. Voyeurism may involve the making of a secret photograph or video of the subject during an intimate activity. When the interest in a particular subject is obsessive, the behavior may be described as stalking.
The term comes from the French voyeur, "one who looks". A male voyeur is commonly labeled "Peeping Tom"...  Voyeurism

As I think of the term, I look back to all those other interviews where I had to answer questions that I felt violated in my personal space and other bishops probed into my sexual fact I decided to coin my own term; social voyeurism.

I think back to when I was nineteen and dating a young man. He was mormon and pushing his limits with me. It was very confusing since I had been taught conflicting things within the mormon church. I had been taught to submit to all male authorities in all areas and that I was responsible for male's sexual behavior since they cannot control their own sexual thoughts or behavior.  As he pushed his limits with me, I tell him no, yet he continued to push his limits. I tell him no, but he continued. I tell him no, but he doesn't take no for an answer. I continue to tell him no, I push him off me, I tell him no, but he forced me. Crying, telling him no telling him I don't want this doesn't work and he raped me.

Distraught and not knowing where to turn, I went to my bishop and tell him what happened. The bishop asked for detailed information...did I let him touch my breasts on the outside and inside of my clothes? Did I let him touch my private parts on the outside and inside of my clothes? How loudly did I say no? How forcefully did I push him away? He then informs me that I am responsible for the young man's sexual behavior and puts me on probation. I am not allowed to hold a church calling, to pray or take the sacrament for 6 months.

Years later, I am looking at the definition of a voyeur. A voyeur is one who has sexual interest and spying on others engaged in sexual practices. Certainly my daughter's bishop and my bishop at 19 has shown that. By asking such intimate questions, they are indeed spying into our private lives and our sexual practices and concerned about our intimate behaviors that are of a private matter.

 I think back to when I was engaged to be married. I had to go in for a temple recommend interview. I was asked the same probing questions. I had determined by this time that these questions are not any of the bishop's business, so I determined I would not answer any of them.  When I leave, I begin to feel guilty, so I turned around and tell the truth. The fiance and I had done things short of fornication, so the bishop insisted that tell him very intimately all that we had done. Again, I must confess things of a very private matter. I must tell him about our petting, our touching private parts, about how my fiancee touched my breasts, both on top of my clothes and under my clothes.  I returned each month until we are married. (Interesting, since my fiancee decides to lie to his bishop, he didn't have to go through the same process, so much for the spirit of discernment.)

If there is one thing that needs to change about the mormon church, it is the social voyeurism that continues to invade the personal space of children and adults alike. Why did I feel compelled to answer these violating questions? Why, after all I went through, did I allow my daughter to also be violated in a similar manner?

Because of the nature of voyeurism itself...the Mormons don't even see they are being observed. Just like the definition states, "the principal characteristic of voyeurism is that the voyeur does not normally relate directly with the subject of his/her interest, who is often unaware of being observed." the Mormons are unaware they are being observed, that their boundaries are being crossed.  

Why are they unaware? Because they have been taught their entire lives that it is normal for middle aged men to sit in a room alone with teenaged girls and boys and ask the most private and personal questions imaginable. We were taught to never question priesthood authority because they are never wrong because they represent god. We are taught that our bodies are not our own, they belong to the church, and as such, we must answer to the church  and priesthood authority about them.

 The church  also decides what we wear (garments, cover shoulders and legs to the knees, don't wear more one pair of earrings, no tattoos, men must wear white shirts to pass the sacrament, etc.).  The church decides how we act (always be reverent, no loud laughter, evil speaking of the lord's anointed.).  The church decides how we think and what we listen to and what we say and watch (no music that will offend the spirit, thoughts lead to actions, and swearing is bad and no R or X rated shows or pronography). So you see, our bodies are not our own and decisions about them are made by the church.

If a high school teacher were to pull one of their students into a room alone and ask the very same questions, that teacher would be arrested and convicted of sexual crimes against a child, yet each year, thousands of parents allow the same violation to occur in Mormon churches without batting an eye.

This is a violation of our children. If a peeping Tom were standing outside my child's window, I would have them arrested. Why then, would I allow an adult man to peep into the very private lives of my children? Why do you?

After the incident with my daughter, I  decided to write a letter to my bishop informing him that there would be no more private interviews with my children.

It is time that all parents become advocates for their children and stand up and say NO to these social voyeuristic interviews.

(Now, whenever I see my daughter's bishop around town, I whisper under my breath, bishop Anus.)

Blind Obedience

I was taught two contradictory concepts as a member of the mormon church.  I was taught that god speaks to each individual and every person has the opportunity to receive god's word and will personally.  Yet, a person was also supposed to follow their leaders without question.

What does a person do when these two ideas conflict?  What about when the views of the leaders contradict the views of the individual?  Often, I found out, even when it was just opinion, the individual was expected and required to submit to the opinions of the leaders with no dissent.

It is a popular thing in the church to re-enact the handcart experiences of the pioneers for the youth in the individual wards.  As a ward I was involved in decided to do this, my oldest daughter would be involved.  The leaders put in charge had decided they wanted an authentic experience for the youth, so they were going to deprive the youth of food and water throughout the day and not allow them to even carry extra food with them, so they would actually have to experience hunger and thirst as they pushed these handcarts in 90 degree weather.  I was alarmed at this, as were others and we voiced our concern.  We were immediately told to stop our dissent and support those in charge.

My daughter, as well as others, had health problems that would be complicated by food and water deprivation.  I was already concerned with putting her in this position and how it would impact her health, but now I was considering not even allowing her to attend, if these were the types of decisions that were being made and our concerns were not going to be heard. We made several attempts to voice our concerns.  We were told to step in line and be quiet each time.

We finally went to a former leader and asked him to speak to those in charge on our behalf. Through his influence only, were we able to get those in charge to back down and allow the youth to have adequate food  and water on the trek.

As I began to question how church callings were made with the the spirit of god and weather the spirit of discernment was used by the church leaders, I questioned the church leaders about these things.  The answers I receive were not that god was charge, but that man was.  As I stepped away from activity and voiced my concern over these matters; my husband and and the church leaders met with me at my house.

I was told to submit to my leader's authority and my husband's authority.  I was experiencing a crisis of faith at the time, and was needing understanding and help with what I was going through. What I got instead, was to blindly follow and step back in line.

I walked away instead.

In name, the leaders may say there is individual inspiration, but when it comes to leadership, there is only blind obedience. No asking, no doubting, no questioning.

Not for me.  Not for many people.