Sunday, March 28, 2010

EFY for Families

By Mister Curie

We recently attended a Marianist Retreat Center for their weekend program for young married couples.  The Marianists are more formally known as The Society of Mary or the Roman Catholic Marian Society.  The retreat center seems to have a special focus on strengthening families.  We had a fantastic time.  Each time we have gone to the retreat center, I have  felt like comparing it to EFY, except for families rather than just for youth.  There are spiritually focused group activities, free time, singing, social activities, etc.  It always surprises me that the LDS church doesn't have something similar.  For all the talk we do about the importance of families, we really don't do that much to strengthen the family.  Sure there is EFY, but that takes the youth away from their  families.  And there are the Singles' wards with fun activities, but once you get married, I feel like we are left high and dry without support.  There aren't a lot of church programs to help parents with raising children and navigating the trials of life after marriage.

We had a fantastic time!  The message I took away from the conference was that Madame Curie and I need to find a higher purpose for our marriage.  With my crisis of faith in  Mormonism, a lot of what was the original foundation of our marriage has eroded.  The gay thing doesn't make things any easier.  We need a high purpose for our marriage to get us through  the trials and storms of life. Finding that higher  purpose is being a little elusive. We tried building our  marriage on the Rock, our Redeemer, Christ the Lord.  Unfortunately that foundation (at least of the Mormon Jesus Christ) wasn't nearly as solid as I'd been lead to believe it was. So it is a little hard for me to find a more sure foundation when I've been constantly told that the surest foundation is in Christ.  We'll find it though . . .

The Palm Sunday mass we attended was beautiful.  It was really enjoyable to take part in the  re-enactment of the Passion of Christ with the last Supper, the atonement in the Garden of Gethsemane,  and the crucifixion.  However,  as I participated,  and I had time to reflect and contemplate on one of the most central events of Christianity, and I realized that I don't believe it anymore. 

I'm torn between the thought that I've become enlightened enough to accept that religion and spirituality are human creations and the thought that maybe Mormonism has damaged my spirituality beyond  repair.  Everything I believed has been overturned and the spiritual link to the Divine that I cultivated in Mormonism (the burning in the bosom of the presence of the Holy Ghost) has been shown to be a flawed method of self-deception.  I can  no longer trust those feelings, and without those feelings, how can  I  access God? As the Mass ended, we sang an uplifting and powerful hymn.  My heart strings were tugged and tears sprang to my eyes.  I felt what I would have formerly called the Spirit.  But I knew it wasn't the spirit, rather it was just an emotional response to the atmosphere and the beautiful music and to having spent a fantastic weekend with my wife focusing on our marriage.  I paused to contemplate the emotion, but assured myself I still didn't believe in Christ's atonement or resurrection. I wasn't experiencing a miraculous spiritual manifestation from God.  I guess that really means I'm  no longer a Christian. 

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Celebrity Crush: Zachary Quinto

By Mister Curie

I would be remiss if I mentioned Star Trek without mentioning Zachary Quinto.  Gay Star Trek fans were so lucky to have two hotties playing opposite each other.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Celebrity Crush: Chris Pine

By Mister Curie

Hello Star Trek fans!  Today's celebrity crush is Chris Pine (so much hotter than William Shatner!).

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Video: Husbands and Husbands

A friend posted this on facebook the other day and I thought I'd share with all of you, in case you haven't seen it yet.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

GLBTQ Encyclopedia: Coming Out to Oneself

By Mister Curie

The GLBTQ Encyclopedia has an interesting observation on when a gay or lesbian is most likely to admit their homosexuality to themselves.  It states:
Women repress their homosexuality more than do gay men. Though they may engage in homosexual activity, gay men often do not label themselves as gay until they fall in love with another man, whereas women tend to discover their lesbianism when they experience sexual desire for another woman. The crisis of identity felt by gay men in heterosexual marriages usually occurs when they become emotionally involved with another man as opposed to merely engaging in homosexual sex.
I thought this was an interesting observation and entirely counter-intuitive.  We are raised with the stereotypes that all a man thinks about is sex and that women are primarily interested in emotions.  Perhaps that is why some men are able to compartmentalize and have sex with other men without believing they are homosexual.  It only being an emotional attachment that suddenly convinces them that they are gay because it is so out of the ordinary.  Likewise, a woman who feels lots of emotional attachment to other women may not recognize her lesbianism until she feels unmistakable physical attraction for another woman, again because it goes so far against the cultural norm.

Given this information, there are probably several times I should have recognized that I was gay.  Perhaps most obvious in retrospect was one of my mission companionship.  My relationship with my mission companion had as much of an emotional component as a physical component and my mission journal contains some surprisingly candid observations about my feelings for my companion.  But the mission was probably also the least safe time emotionally for me to be able to recognize my homosexuality, with such a personal price of public humiliation and the dedication I felt toward exact obedience to the church.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Genetics of Homosexuality: Twin Studies, Part IV

By Mister Curie

Before leaving twin studies behind, I just wanted to highlight a couple of other interesting findings from the twin studies that relate to the conventional wisdom about homosexuality.  These are from the Australian Twin study published in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2000, Volume 78, pages 524-536.

Distribution of Sexual Orientation

This study was performed in the twin registry and the results are expected to largely mirror the general population.  The study investigators looked at the distribution of Kinsey scores in their population.  ~92% of both men and women in the sample had Kinsey scores of 0, giving an approximate 8% prevalence of non-heterosexuality.  (As an aside, the Swedish twin study found a 5.6% prevalence for men who had ever had a same-sex partner and 7.8% prevalence for women who had ever had a same-sex partner, and an American study found a 3% prevalence of non-heterosexual orientation).  Interestingly the distribution between the other scores differed between men and women.  Women were more likely to have a Kinsey score of 1 with decreasing likelihood for subsequently higher Kinsey scores.  Men, on the other hand, were increasingly likely  to have higher (5 and 6) Kinsey scores, supporting the observation that men are less likely to be bisexual.

Homosexual Sexual Activity

The study also found that individuals with Kinsey scores of "0" were unlikely to have homosexual sexual experiences (although nearly 10% of such men reported having had a same-sex experience), but 60% of men with a Kinsey score of "1" were likely to have had at least one same-sex partner, 70% of men with Kinsey scores of "2-4" were likely to have had at least one same-sex partner, and nearly 100% of men with Kinsey scores of "5-6" were likely to have had at least one same-sex partner.  Unfortunately the study did not show the likelihood of different Kinsey scores to have opposite-sex partners (which I'd be interested in, as I am in a MOM).

Childhood Gender Nonconformity
The study also looked at Kinsey scores and reported childhood gender nonconformity, such as the likelihood to have participated in sex-stereotypic games and activities.  The study found an increasing likelihood to have have not conformed to childhood gender stereotypes with increasing Kinsey score.  Perhaps this helps explain some of my childhood experiences.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Abrahamic Trials

By Mister Curie

In the story of the Abrahamic trial, the great Patriarch Abraham is commanded to sacrifice his covenant son, Isaac, the one through whom God has promised that he will be blessed with posterity as the sands of the sea.  According to LDS theology, this was doubly difficult because Abraham himself had nearly been sacrificed by his idolatrous father.  But Abraham was obedient to the Lord and went forth to sacrifice his son.  Once God was satisfied that Abraham would be fully obedient, he released Abraham from the command and blessed him.

The LDS church teaches that we must all face an Abrahamic trial to be worthy of exhaltation.  Modern scriptures teach "Therefore, they must needs be chastened and tried, even as Abraham, who was commanded to offer up his only son.  For all those who will not endure chastening, but deny me, cannot be sanctified" (D&C 101:4-5).  According to John Taylor, Joseph Smith taught that "You will have all kinds of trials to pass through. And it is quite as necessary for you to be tried as it was for Abraham and other men of God, and (said he) God will feel after you, and He will take hold of you and wrench your very heart strings, and if you cannot stand it you will not be fit for an inheritance in the Celestial Kingdom of God" (Journal of Discourses, 24:197).

Could homosexuality be such an Abrahamic trial? 

Could it be as George Q. Cannon asked, "Will you be true and loyal to God with the curtain drawn between you and Him, shut out from His presence, and in the midst of darkness and temptation, with Satan and his invisible hosts all around you, bringing all manner of evil influences to bear upon you? The men and the women that will be loyal under these circumstances God will exalt, because it will be the highest test to which they can be subjected" (Gospel Truth, 1:7)? And could it be as Ezra Taft Benson said, "The prophet is not limited by men's reasoning. There will be times when you will have to choose between the revelations of God and the reasoning of men--between the prophet and the politician or professor. Said the Prophet Joseph Smith, "Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is, although we may not see the reason thereof until long after the events transpire" (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p.134)?

I have a lot of problems with this interpretation of the Abrahamic trial and how it applies to homosexuality.  I do not think homosexuality should be viewed as a trial of this life, that will be taken away from us in the Resurrection if we are faithful to the LDS church leaders and remain celibate or marry women, or otherwise we will be resurrected without genitalia.

I like Karen Armstrong's interpretation of the Abraham and Isaac story in her book, "The Case for God".  She wrote (page 35-36):
The God he has served so long had turned out to  be a heartless slayer of children, who was also cynically breaking his promise to make him the father of a great nation. . . . The Genesis narratives show how difficult it is to see or understand the divine as we struggle with life's cruel dilemmas. 
There is no clear, consistent image of God in Genesis.  In the famous first chapter, the Creator God appears center stage, with no rival, supremely powerful and benign, blessing all the things that he has made.  But the rest of Genesis seems to deconstruct this tidy theology.  The God who was supremely powerful in chapter 1 has lost control of his creation within two chapters; the utterly fair and equitable God who blessed everything impartially is later guilty of blatant favoritism, and his somewhat arbitrary choices (the chosen ones are rarely paragons) set human beings murderously against each other.  At the time of the Flood, the benign creator becomes the cruel destroyer. . . Genesis shows that our glimpses of what we call "God" can be as partial, terrible, ambiguous, and paradoxical as the world we live in.  As Abraham's plight on Mount Moriyya shows, it is not easy to "see" what God is, and there are no simple answers to life's perplexities.
I like Karen Armstrong's interpretation of the Abrahamic trial.  For Armstrong, the Abrahamic trial is a story about struggling with life's perplexities.  Such an interpretation does represent a trial that all mankind must go through, but getting through such a trial is not achieved by blindly placing faith in other men who claim to know God's will better than the rest of us.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Celebrity Crush: Ryan Reynolds

By Mister Curie

So, if it weren't obvious enough by now from my avatar, my celebrity crush is Ryan Reynolds.  Here's just some crushing goodness.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Genetics of Homosexuality: Twin Studies, Part III

By Mister Curie

Chris commented on my previous post about twin studies and the genetics of homosexuality that he would like to see a comparison to "other studies of traits with unclear origins, such as handedness."  So, Chris, this post's for you.

Neuropsychologia, Volume 47, January 2009, Pages 330-337

Twins from the Australian Twin Registry and the Netherland's twins registries were asked about what hand they used to write with.  54,270 individuals from 25,732 families participated in the study.  Identical twins both wrote with the same hand about 24% of the time, while fraternal twins wrote with the same hand about 14% of the time.  The study estimated a 23.6% genetic influence on handedness with 0% shared environmental influence, and 76.4% unique environmental influence on handedness.

And apparently handedness is first demonstrated around 9-10 weeks gestation, as embryos begin to have single arm movements.  Interesting . . .

As for a trait I'm a little more familiar with research on, cholesterol levels:

New England Journal of Medicine, 1993, Volume 328, pages 1150-1156

Twins from the Swedish Twin Registry were approached to have a physical exam where cholesterol levels were measured.  302 pairs of twins participated in the study and included sets of twins that grew up together and sets of twins that were separated at birth.  Identical twins that grew up together had similar total cholesterol levels 66% of the time, while fraternal twins that grew up together had similar total cholesterol levels 41% of the time.  When the twins were separated at birth, the identical twins had similar total cholesterol levels 37% of the time and fraternal twins had similar total cholesterol levels 14% of the time.  This study estimated that cholesterol levels are influenced genetically 63%, influenced by a shared environment 18%, and by non shared environment 19%.

Handedness is interesting because it's estimated genetic influence is quite a bit less than the estimates for the genetic influence on homosexuality, like homosexuality does not appear to have a shared environmental influence (meaning the rest of the influence are unique environmental factors), and yet I don't know of anyone who believes you choose to be right or left handed.

Cholesterol levels appear to have a somewhat higher genetic influence than homosexuality.  I am familiar with the genetic research on cholesterol levels and many genes are now being identified with influencing cholesterol levels.  There are also several severe genetic defects that are known to cause huge changes in cholesterol levels, many of these are familial diseases that often result in heart disease.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Apostates and Homosexuals

By Mister Curie

Since my disaffection I've learned that a lot of things in the "world" are nothing like I believed them to be. The Church, in its quest to rigidly define the path of righteousness, has created a lot of false bogeymen.  Take, for example, apostates and homosexuals.  These are two groups that the church counsels us to avoid due to their "sinful" choices, making us believe that they will recruit us to their causes.

MoHoHawaii recently listed three stereotypes of non-believers: (1) non-feeling, (2) intellectual, (3) evil.  These largely reflect what I grew up believing about apostates from the Mormon church: that they want to destroy the faith of others, that they intellectualize themselves out of faith, and that they desire to sin.  These apostates are pitiable creatures, "crawling over or under or around" the truths of the Gospel that they have either intellectualized themselves away from, or simply ignore in their desire to live a sinful lifestyle, but they must be avoided at all costs because of the poison they spew. Similarly, I grew up believing that homosexuals were evil individuals who chose to sin in the worst possible way and who want to recruit others into their sinful lifestyle.

It took becoming an apostate and realizing I am homosexual for me to recognize that I had been taught many false things about both apostates and homosexuals.  Upon losing my belief, I joined the New Order Mormon forum for "apostates".  There I met some of the most wonderful people I have ever met.  Largely these people did not desire to be sinful, they weren't evil, they weren't non-feeling, but I must admit many of them were very smart intellectual individuals.  The forum is largely a support forum for those who are reeling from the realization that what they have been taught all of their lives is not true in the way they believed it to be true.  They are hurt and frustrated.  Their plight is largely similar to that of homosexuals and they have adopted many of the same terms, including being in the closet and coming out.  The reaction of family and friends to their "coming out" is also similar to how many homosexuals are treated upon coming out.  These open "apostates" often face divorce, loss of other family relationships, and the desires of others to "change" them.  John Dehlin has fantastic series of podcasts at Mormon Stories that attempts to humanize the "apostates."  The Mormon Expression podcasts have a similar, although somewhat more angsty, focus. 

Similarly, homosexuals are nothing like I was led to believe.  Joining the MoHosphere and developing friendships with many of you, has been a fantastic, affirming experience.  The MoHo journey is not about the decision to become homosexual and there is no effort to recruit others to be gay, nor belief that such recruitment is even possible.  MoHos often struggle with accepting that homosexuality is not what they have been led to believe all their lives, sometimes leading to the contemplation of suicide.  Their plight of coming out of the closet and the reactions of spouse, family, and friends are well documented.  And the doctrinal contusions I see posted around the MoHosphere, frankly, border on apostasy.  Dismissal of writings of apostles and prophets as policy and not doctrine (including, but not limited to the Proclamation on the Family), failure to support the church's decision in Prop 8, wanting the church to change to allow homosexual marriage for eternity - these are all out apostasy.  MoHos go through the same things that the apostates on New Order Mormon are going through.  MoHos recognize that what they have been taught about homosexuality is wrong.  The apostates recognize that many of the things they have been taught about the church are wrong and they struggle to understand the new reality.

Being at the crossroads of these two great journeys, the world makes the most sense if the church is wrong about both apostates and homosexuals.  The reason the church leaders are so wrong about homosexuality is the same reason they have been wrong about racial equality, gender equality, and polygamy: because God isn't speaking to them in the way church members are led to believe He does.  There is no special link between the Prophet and the Divine that enables them to give God's will to us.  We cannot trust with blind faith in their guidance, believing that if we will only listen to the Prophet we will be guided safely home to the Celestial Kingdom.  The same thing applies to why the archeological and DNA evidence fails to support the Book of Mormon, why the Temple endowment ceremony largely mimics 18th century Masonic rituals, why there are multiple, conflicting accounts of the First Vision, and why the Book of Abraham does not match the translation by Egyptologists of the Egyptian funeral scrolls: its all human fabrication.  There are multiple issues with the church on all sorts of levels, apologists jump through hoop after hoop to explain them all.  But there is one hoop I can jump through that makes all the other problems go away, the church is not true.  The God I was taught to believe in, who loves me and wants to guide my safely home to His presence, is not the same God that would put so many false leads in history so that we have to rely on faith despite the physical evidence to the contrary.

As J. Reuben Clark stated, "If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed."

Or as Gordon B. Hinckley stated, "Well, we have nothing to hide. Our history is an open book. They may find what they are looking for, but the fact is the history of the church is clear and open and leads to faith and strength and virtues."

Gordon B. Hinckley also stated, "Each of us has to face the matter—either the Church is true, or it is a fraud. There is no middle ground. It is the Church and kingdom of God, or it is nothing."