I haven’t posted in forever and I feel bad about that. It’s not that I’m not writing, I’m actually writing a lot for graduate school I’m just not posting my research here.
However, I submitted an abstract to the University of Utah History Conference about my research regarding AIDS in Utah in the 1980s. I’m posting the abstract here for anyone interested. This is a distilled version of the 30 page paper I wrote last spring.
“The Wages of Sin is Death”: AIDS in Utah and the LDS Church Response
In 1986 the Mormon Church shocked the gay and lesbian community in Salt Lake when a Mormon bishop in Ogden excommunicated a young Mormon man dying of AIDS. A national public relations fiasco for the Church followed and resulted in the Church issuing its first statement about AIDS, which only made matters worse. Spokesman Jerry Cahill stated that the Church had no official policy on homosexuality or AIDS but asked infected members to stay away from church meetings for fear of spreading the disease.
Church leaders grappled with the existence of homosexuality within Mormonism and by extension, a disease that devastated the gay community as well as women, children, and racial minorities. Church leadership refused to acknowledge or respond to the public health crisis until national media shamed them into making a statement in 1986 even though AIDS had spread in Utah since the early years of the decade. In addition the majority of members in the Utah legislature identified as faithful Church members and they too made no effort to combat the growing epidemic with state funds. The Catholic Church responded first to the AIDS epidemic in Utah. Nuns opened a wing in the Catholic hospital to men dying from AIDS and provided food and services. Other men and women from the Utah gay community organized the first AIDS organizations and public health outreach to combat this terrifying new disease.
A few months ago the people at Rational Faith asked me to create a timeline that tracked the issue of homosexuality within Mormonism. I knew it would be a time consuming task but I knew it would be mostly a work of synthesis, meaning the information was already available online and in books, I just had to compile it.
I wrote the post and sent it off last summer and forgot that it would be posted in November. When it when up I realized my citations were not included and I take full responsibility for that. I had created sources in a second document because at the time I made the timeline, I had not decided how I was going to cite sources. I realized when the post went up that I had not resolved that, so I quickly added footnotes and crossed checked the information.
As I say in the intro to the timeline, it is by no means exhaustive. Some of the first comments criticized the timeline for not including more recent developments. To this I said, “This list is more of a survey of events throughout the 20th century, that I, as the author, deemed important. I hope that that is totally obvious. I have not tried to hide anything, I have tried to shed light on events, statements, and political developments that have been forgotten, but that are essential to know.”
To create a list like this I am indebted to a few people. First, Connell O’Donovan and his extensive and thorough research about homosexuality within Mormonism is a treasure. Second, D. Michael Quinn for the same reasons. His books have proven time and time again to be invaluable resources, and finally, Ben Williams for his work in preserving and archiving so much of the Gay Rights movement in Utah. They deserve our gratitude.
The post can be read here
I recently did an interview on Gay.ru. A reporter from the site contacted me and was curious about my connection to Russia and my thoughts about the current situation in Russia regarding the inhumane laws and treatment of LGBT Russians. My connection to Russia is through a homophobic American religion who sent me to the country when I was a deeply closeted young man. I spent 2 and a half years in Russia, speak Russian and have a special place in my heart for Russia.
You can read the interview in Russian here.
For those who don’t speak Russian or want to put it through an online, translator, the text of my interview is below in English. Continue reading →
… by the letters
When I was a little kid, my babysitter was Lora. She lived around the corner from me in Orem and she was 13 years old when I first met her. I was 6 at the time and thought she was so mature and such an adult, not a little kid like me. She knew all the cool music and when she’d come over to babysit she would bring with her the hits of the late 80s. My favorite was Tiffany and the single “I think We’re Alone Now.” I borrowed it from Lora all the time so one Saturday afternoon my mom took me to the record store on State Street and bought me a copy, which I still have, and which is now autographed by Tiffany because a few years ago I met her at Phoenix Pride. Point is – Lora was the coolest person I knew.
When my family moved from Utah to California in 1991, Lora wrote me letters. But being the coolest babysitter and creative, attentive person she is, she didn’t just write a letter. She would create a new alphabet and create a key on a 3×5 index card so I could crack the code. For example the letter A would match a new symbol like +. The letter B was denoted with a !, C with a #, D by an = and so on. Without the index card the letter was impossible to read. A letter from her was an experience because each was a puzzle, written in our own secret language that took me about 20 minutes to decipher. I translated the symbols and then could read her words. I cherished those letters.
Mormon history includes a similar story.
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I journeyed north to my ancestral homeland (on my mom’s side) to Brigham City, Utah on Friday night to attend the open house of the new Brigham City temple.
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