cross-posted to exmormon
Below is an expository piece used to frame a memoir, of sorts. It is perhaps a bit self-indulgent. You are forgiven if you skip it entirely.
For those still interested in continuing, pour yourself a cup of coffee and let's go. I don't know how many Science Fiction readers there are out there, but I wonder if any of you had read Orson Scott Card. He is an author of science fiction and fantasy who just happens to be a Mormon. Ender's Game is perhaps his best known work. Highly recommended, you can't go wrong.
I began reading his books at a difficult time in my life, nearly ten years ago. Virtually or literally homeless as a teenager in Utah County, rather than "just go away" as the police continually harangued us to do, we had little choice but to remain, although it meant to live in exile, even on the streets of our hometown. For obscure reasons, we outcasts were hanging about the Orem, Utah Barnes & Noble. It was our efforts to build a sense of visibility, community, and togetherness, establishing bonds that still exist today (hi, captain_brad!). Although I do not vouch for the corporate giant B&N on any means, (please support your local independent bookstore, if any even still exist in your town) it was the largest bookstore in the city. There are far worse places for punks to hang out than a bookstore. The long hours were often spent in days of hunger, the missing food we tried to forget, it's absence barely supplanted by nicotine, "Top" brand rolling tobacco (which for the uninitiated, is a name mired within wishful thinking), insert favorite illicit drug here, generic whiskey, caffeine, and literature. I have since removed all but the last two from my life, and these remaining habits have been adopted with prodigious efficacy.
During this time, upon introduction from a friend of mine, I began to read Orson Scott Card-- again. I was aware of him as an author. I had read Ender's Game a few years earlier, and I had even attended a "Young Writer's Conference", a sort of congratulatory seminar sponsored by the Alpine School District for high school students in Honors English that had wished to attend, to learn how to become "a real writer!". Paid, or at least published adult authors were available for consultation and lectures during a grand six hour event held at Brigham Young University. None other than Orson Scott Card was the grand host of the event. For two hours, he delved into the mysteries of the written word, inspiring many, I am certain, of both their own ability to write, or perhaps to awaken a tingling desire within those in the audience that sought to learn more. We were all pleased to have this "real writer" as a lecturer-host, and I had a copy of "Prentice Alvin", Book Three in the Alvin Maker series, for him to sign. I shook his hand and thanked him profusely. Glowing. How nice to put a face to a name, but even more, a handshake from the very hands that wrote words I read and loved.
Orson Scott Card would fall out of favor for me, just as my family and I would fall out of favor for each other during the tumultuous events of a bitter adolescence. He was a Mormon! Member of the enemy creed, that which banished us from home to bleed. I had little time or patience for anyone or anything associated with it's pernicious nonsense. But in the long days of Barnes & Noble, I was chastised forthright for my willful ignorance of his works and deliberate avoidance of his name amongst the giants all along the "Sci-Fi/Fantasy" section in the bookstore. I would read Isaac Asimov, Spider Robinson, Poul Andersen, Douglas Adams, Ben Bova, Robert Heinlein, Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, George Orwell. These were names of masters of the genre, bold story tellers that inevitably imagined where our post-modern world could go, literature of the upmost importance to me, to my raggedy Anne and Andy "reading group", and to us all, in some degree, during this great technological age in which we live. I was ruefully chided for never thinking to make time again for Orson Scott Card. I relented, and found myself engrossed in his writing once again. It was a bold move for myself; there had been no reconciliation between Mormons and myself on that day. This was perhaps the first step for me back to a more desirous relationship to both my de facto culture and my family, and in the years since, I still remember that day as me abandoning my youthfully ardent hardline stance against Mormons, when I felt I still had nothing to gain.
As I read more, I remembered that seminar, that room, that sunny spring day in which Orson Scott Card had not only dared us all to follow our dreams, but to show us how. The memory set the mood for a pastiche feeling of hope and desire, less self-destruction, more creative construction. I would set down the drugs and pick up a pen.
Orson Scott Card would recede from view, eventually, for if he did not, I perhaps would have happened across this essay, entitled The Hypocrites of Homosexuality much sooner. Here are perhaps the most condemning passages:
"Laws against homosexual behavior should remain on the books, not to be indiscriminately enforced against anyone who happens to be caught violating them, but to be used when necessary to send a clear message that those who flagrantly violate society's regulation of sexual behavior cannot be permitted to remain as acceptable, equal citizens within that society.
The goal of the polity is not to put homosexuals in jail. The goal is to discourage people from engaging in homosexual practices in the first place, and, when they nevertheless proceed in their homosexual behavior, to encourage them to do so discreetly, so as not to shake the confidence of the community in the polity's ability to provide rules for safe, stable, dependable marriage and family relationships."
This is 1990, and the laws on the books were of course the sodomy laws, anti-lesbian laws, anti-homosexual acts laws, ability to discriminate for employment, adoption, housing, et al. One would hope that the years may mellow, but in 2004, he wrote another long tirade against homosexuality, this time specifically attacking gay marriage. Gems below, stating that "Marriage Is Already Open To Everyone":
"In the first place, no law in any state in the United States now or ever has forbidden homosexuals to marry. The law has never asked that a man prove his heterosexuality in order to marry a woman, or a woman hers in order to marry a man.
Any homosexual man who can persuade a woman to take him as her husband can avail himself of all the rights of husbandhood under the law. And, in fact, many homosexual men have done precisely that, without any legal prejudice at all.
Ditto with lesbian women. Many have married men and borne children. And while a fair number of such marriages in recent years have ended in divorce, there are many that have not.
So it is a flat lie to say that homosexuals are deprived of any civil right pertaining to marriage. To get those civil rights, all homosexuals have to do is find someone of the opposite sex willing to join them in marriage."
Purely obscene logic that is more eerily reminiscent of jock high school kids yelling at me, "Fucking Faggot!" and alternately to my female-bodied queer friends, "Dyke bitches! You just need need a man to fuck you straight! Come check out my dick!" Ah, penishood.
My current feelings as I type this are hard to define. I am quite upset. They are perhaps best represented by Donna Minkowitz, writer of an interview with Card written for Salon, entitled My favorite author, My worst interview. I feel betrayed, in a way that I usually do not allow homophobia to let me feel, especially coming from distinctly Mormon homophobia, a virulent form rivaled in the West only by Baptists and, uh, maybe Rastafarians or otherwise devout members of most any faith in Jamaica. In Utah County, you learn to grow thick skin. Resentment leaves a thick scar tissue that the sting of daily reminders do not often penetrate.
For another final example, I offer up my ninth grade current events and U.S. History teacher. I saw her as a bold and vivacious personality, and I often spent hours in her classroom after the school day was done, speaking to her, hearing her stories, empathizing with her woes, celebrating anecdotes of victory and hope with her. With her deep southwestern accent, she was my Texas champion, in a way that was reserved perhaps only for the likes of Randy "Biscuit" Turner of the punk band The Big Boys, legendarily ending shows performed while wearing a pink tutu, with the shout to the audience: "OK, ya'll! Go start your own band." She was the first person in authority that told me that authority was often entirely mistaken. It was as much a confession as a revelation! "Your final course of action must be civil disobedience," she encouraged, citing Thoreau. Years later, I found her again at the thrift store. It had been over a decade, but she still remembered my name. She updated me on events, and ended with a statement that basically boiled down to: "I have tried to fight the dangerous tendencies of the left to brainwash all you kids-- I have always been worried about the threats of communism, atheism, and homosexuality. Those godless faggots....." I, of course, had a two out of three status, being a godless faggot. I didn't bother to break her heart by telling her my secret, but she had unknowingly broken mine with hers. She was also Mormon, a convert when she was in college.
All in all, I am glad I know, even as it has been a continual lifelong and painful realization of the truthfulness of Steven Weinberg's words: "Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it, you'd have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, it takes religion." How had these inspirational people been able to find their way into my heart with theirs so black? How had I swooned over their mental faculties when I examined them again to find them to be intellectually bankrupt? I feel tricked, and betrayed.
Being Exmormons, I find that our youthful heroes oftentimes end up making the perfect villains for our later years. It is too bad, and I wonder how much an emissary of their faith they truly are. I think of heated arguments from with family members revolving-- well, any topic, really-- often leading to disagreements so profound, I am actually ashamed for them that they have been fooled so completely by lies that they regurgitate them effortlessly. Despite this kind of letdown, for those family members that I am on healthy terms with, I know I can never cast off completely and abandon, even as I abandon all hope of rationality succeeding in benefit of their behalf, and indirectly or not, my own as well.
But for the likes of Card, in closing, I will cite Minkowitz directly, as her sentiment echos my own: "I end the interview with a sweetness that later makes me cringe and pick up 'Ender's Game,' discover it's still good, and wish the man a very lousy rest of his life."