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Eric Morely

Thanks for joining us today. Could you introduce yourself and tell a little bit about how
you identify, and how you ended up here in Sugarhouse?

All right. that's a lengthy question. I'm Eric Morely, I identify as gay. I was living in
Bountiful, just moved to Sugarhouse just, oh, under a month ago. Year and a half ago I
got a divorce. I was married for 7 years, and got a divorce and as part of the divorce
had to sell my house, and you know, split things, and changed life quite a bit. Part of
that, Bountiful, was not really the best place for me to live, I think, with my lifestyle and
the way I wanted to pursue life, and the way I want my life to go and the direction I want
to take. So I thought Sugarhouse would be a better place. That's kind of how I ended
up here.

So you were married for seven years? Do you want to tell a little bit of that story? The
beginning, middle, and end of that?

Sure. I guess it starts like as a teenager, I guess, and kind of leads up into things. I
think for most people, everybody kind of knows that they're gay, but may not know how
to define that, what that means, what those feelings mean, and how to express that.
And at least growing up for me, there were a lot of social consequences that came with
being gay, coming from a very LDS family, being raised in Sandy, and going to high
school at Jordan High School; there wasn't very much of a gay population back then,
and I didn't know any other gay people. So, I just kind of lived life and went through my
teenage years, went on my mission, I came back from my mission and came out to my
parents right after i came back from my mission. My dad was in the Bishopric at the
time, and so his best friend was the Bishop, so we didn't go to him. My mom and I kept
it kind of a secret from my dad for a little bit. And we met with the stake president who
put me in contact with the head of the, I guess, the head guy at the church, the LDS
Church, who kind of writes the policy on Same Sex Attraction, as they call it. So he put
me in contact with him, and I went to the Church Office Building, met with him, and he
had me write like my whole life history, and how I felt, and how things made me feel, and
he suggested that I get into counseling so that I could overcome my trial in my life. And
at the time I had heard a lot of Evergreen, and their program, and what they had to offer
a lot of people, and he told me not to go to Evergreen, it was just a kind of pick-up place,
so he discouraged me from going to Evergreen and put me in contact with this new
program they had going on down at BYU. So I got into this program at BYU, and I went
there for a botu a year, going one or two times a week, and it was run by LDS Family
Services. I was going to individual therapy, as well as group therapy, and we would go
discuss all of my issues, what it meant to have these issues, that it wasn't actually an
attraction, that it was a self-confidence issue. They encouraged me to play basketball,
and to be more aggressive with men, and to repair my relationships with men, and
repair my relationships with my father, they blamed it on him being a workaholic, and I
didn't really have a strong male role model in my life. So they convinced me it was a
self-confidence issue, and they encouraged me to get married, that marriage would help
me get over the attraction feelings, and would help resolve a lot of that. And so I started
dating my ex-wife. She became my best friend. She and I had a lot of… I don't know if
we had a lot of similar interests, but she was from Montana, and everything I did, I went
on my mission to France, and she loved France, we went to France together, so we had
all these that were exciting and fun for us to share together, but more as friends. I guess
from my side of things. She saw it developing differently. And then I had a difficult time
making a commitment because I knew that this issue… issue, I guess… kind of kept me
from making a commitment to her. Because I had a really difficult time with our physical
relationship, and getting close to her that way, because I wasn't really attracted to here.
I mean, at 23 I could make things work because I was young enough, and I could feel
somewhat of an attraction to her, but it was very difficult, and it was very labored. So
things progressed to the point where we had started to discuss marriage. I came out to
her, I told her that I had been through a lot of counseling, and I had just concluded a
bunch of my counseling, at the time that I told her. And told her that I had faced gay
issues, or same sex attraction, as they called it back then, and that I guess that I had
overcome them and that they wouldn't be a problem anymore. She had her own past
that wasn't sketchy, but she wasn't too proud of, so I think she was willing to overlook my
attraction issues if I was able to forgive her on some of her past things, so I think she
kind of weighed the scale and figured out we were both balanced, and that was going to
work for her. But all along I knew that I was gay. And I knew that I always would be. So
we got married, and had our two kids, two boys, and all the while I kind of figured that I
would really engage myself in the Church, because all along I ha been told that if I fast,
and I pray, and I do all the things God wanted me to do, I could overcome anything in
this life, I could overcome any trial that I had, and so I had a lot of faith in that, and I did
that, and I worked really really hard, I was very very good at what I did. I tried really
hard. I studied, I fasted, I prayed, I went to church, I fulfilled my callings, to the point
where I got called into the bishopric, as a second counselor in the bishopric. And at that
point, I kind of made my deal with God, and said, all right, this is where I 'm at, and I'm
going to step into something that's going to require a lot of my time, and it's time, God,
that you fulfill your role, your end of th bargain, and take tis away from me. You know,
pray the gay away, I guess. So I really tried to fulfill that calling really well. And I really
really worked hard, I did what, I don't know if it was the best, I felt like I gave my best,
because I really wanted to do what I thought was necessary. Ultimately, it only got
worse. Because I was spending 20, 25 hours a week at the church, and spending 11
hours on a Sunday, and I found myself, the only thing that gave me some comfort in my
marriage, was that I could be home, and I could spend time with my kids and I could
enjoy my kids. And I found that by dedicating myself to the church it was pulling me
away from my kids, the one thing that kept me in the marriage. So it got to the point
where I figured that I could be happy, I could be honest with myself, I could be honest
with those around me, and I could probably, once divorced, see my kids even more
divorced than I would as a good member of the church. Then I started to come to what I
believed was the conclusion of our term in the bishopric. And I didn't want to spend
another, and there was a good likelihood that I would get called into the next bishopric,
and I didn't want to spend another 5 years in the bishopric, and just prolong this another
5 years, my coming out. So I figured that would be the time when I would have to tell
my wife. I was going to decline the calling, and at the point that I declined the calling
into the next bishopric, I would have to tell her why. So I started to make preparations to
come out. I told one of my best friends, who is gay, but he figured that I had tendencies
but that I would never act on them. He was a very very good friend of mine anyway. So
I had someone who would be supportive and encouraging. And then I told one other
straight friend of mine and then came out to my dad, in preparing for all this. And my
dad was very upset, lectured me quite a bit, and advised me to speak to my brother,
who is an attorney, to get some legal advice on divorce, and get some idea of what I
was facing. My brother called me one evening after I'd just spend 11 or 12 hours at the
church on a Sunday. I was really frustrated with the church that day, really frustrated at
how things were going, and he was calling to face me on an issue that I really wasn't
that open to discussing. So I went downstairs into my little girl's room, which is the
furthest corner of the house, where I could get away from my wife. I shut all the doors,
so that I could talk with him in privacy, and started to tell him what my plans were. And
my wife decided that she wanted to hear the conversation, wanted to hear what I was
talking about, because she could tell that I was talking passionately because I got a little
upset about my time at the church, and I was speaking loudly, I get passionate about
things that way, and so she flipped on the baby monitor upstairs, and heard me telling
my brother that I was gay, that I was planning on coming out, and that it was only a
matter of time. There was very little that was going to change that, and all of a sudden I
just heard this wailing from upstairs, which was absolutely the worst day of my life.
Probably more tears than… I can't shed any more about it, because cried and cried and
cried, she and I cried about it. I went upstairs and she was wrapped in a ball rocking
back and forth in the living room, and just wailing, and crying, and screaming, and
shaking. I tried to hold her and she wouldn't let me hold her, I couldn't get close to her.
My kids didn't know what was going on, I think that was the hardest part for me; they
saw mom so upset, and they couldn't figure out what was going on because they were
too young. I think that it's still the kid part… I feel bad, I have a hard time with that. So,
that's how she found out, that's how things started to end, and they just kind of… we
discussed staying together, and what that meant for us to stay together, and what it
meant to be apart, and it didn't take us long to decide that it was best for us to separate,
to take our own ways, and our own paths. That's kind of how the marriage thing worked
out, I guess.

How long ago did this happen, about?

So the day that she found out was April 21, 2008. I'll never forget that.

How has it been since then? How's your relationship with her and with your kids?
Up and down, obviously. I spent a lot of time on getting the two of us into counseling
right away, within the first week, both she and I were seeing separate counselors and a
counselor together, so that we could… she could understand that it wasn't her that
had… it wasn't her fault, but that it was me, and to help her understand what it meant for
me to be gay. What it meant for her for me to be gay. What it meant for us as a couple
and as parents. And that helped a lot. In the year and a half since then, we've had our
ups and downs, but I have to admit, she's a wonderful woman. Can't stand her
sometimes, and she can't stand me sometimes, but she's a very strong person, she's
done an excellent job making it through this, and I'm very proud of her for what she's
been through, and where she's at today. And my kids are amazing. There's been very
little impact. They've had to move, but I think that's been the difficult part on them, they
had to move to Idaho, to Malad, and then I just moved, and I think the moving has been
difficult on them. But other than that, it's been really good. That's one of the reasons I
came out when I did, was because the kids are still young, I hope that they'll just grow
up knowing dad is gay, this is the way life is, they won't know much different from that.
So hopefully my plan works out… so far so good. They're doing really well.

There's a lot of discourse going on about gay parents raising kids and this kind of stuff.
What are your thoughts on that dialogue?

My perspective on things is that my kids don't need to know that I'm gay. I think gay
parents are perfectly capable of raising children. I hope they are. Because I'm in that
category. I don't tell my kids… I explain things as things come up, in discussion with my
kids. They'll talk about kids on the playground, you know, they'll get a girlfriend, or
someone will kiss them on the cheek or something. And we'll talk about how sometimes
boys kiss boys, sometimes girls kiss girls, and sometimes boys and girls kiss, and that's
ok, it doesn't matter. But I've never sat them down and said "Dad is gay." Nobody sits
kids down and says, "This is a heterosexual couple, this is a mom, this is a dad, they're
supposed to be together." Kids just grow up knowing that. I want my kids to be raised
with that understanding, that families are families, no matter how they look or who they
are, and who's in them, and who the parents are. It doesn't matter if they're gay,
lesbian, transgender, whatever the relationship may be, as long as there's love in that
relationship. That's what's most important. As long as those kids are loved and cared
for, given structure, I think they'll flourish in any environment. And so far I think my kids
have proven that's true. I've been dating someone for three months, and they've met
him, and they think he's great. I've never had to sit them down and say "this is Dad's
boyfriend, Dad is dating him." And they're doing really well with that, they love having
him around. It's a lot of fun.

That's really important. I'm really interested in your time in the bishopric. Can you say a
little bit about, for those who may not know what the bishopric is, can you talk about
what that is, the duties that entails…
The bishopric is kind of… there are wards. The church as a whole is very well
governed, and it's set up in different little areas, I guess municipalities, if you compare
them to our regular government. The wards are like parishes, they're geographical
areas that are divided up and then there's the bishopric, so there's a bishop who has
two counselors who are responsible for their geographical region, which is about 500
people. And so they're responsible for basically the spiritual welfare of those
individuals, but also the temporal welfare. So they're responsible for making sure that
members are doing well, and basically the goal is to.. because if you're taking care of
them temporally, then spiritually you can bring them to God, so often they give a lot of
money, and food donations, to people that live in that geographical boundary. But
because there are 500 people and 1 bishop, it's very difficult for him to meet everybody,
and be responsible for the whole organization. So he has 2 counselors who have
specific responsibilities within that ward. My responsibilities at the time were to work
with the youth, and I had a lot of responsibility working with youth, a lot of responsibility
over church education programs that are spiritual education programs, Sunday schools,
things like that. And then I was on a ward counsel where we would discuss the welfare
of the members, their health, their spiritual welfare, you know, financially if someone
was struggling, we could discuss that, see if there were other members who could pitch
in and help them or if the church needed to step in and provide assistance. And just
discussing the needs of and the logistics of running things, how to run meetings, how to
lead meetings, how to make sure that the buildings were clean and taken care of. So it
was a big responsibility. It was pretty much a part time job for me. In the bishopric
there's quite a bit of responsibility. Also with a lot of the spiritual welfare. Along with
spiritual welfare, the bishopric is responsible, not only for education, but for discipline.
So if a member were to sin, or infract on the rules of the church, or the Commandments
of God, I guess, as you would say, then the bishop was to hold disciplinary courts, and
determine the status of the member in the eyes of the church, and in the eyes of God.
And my role was to participate in those courts, and do advocate or help deliver
punishment, I guess, to this person. And for me it was a lot easier to advocate for them
because I understood that nobody was perfect. So often I tried to pursued in one way
that was helpful to the member. It was a difficult seat for me to fill, knowing that my
goals, where I wanted to be, and how I was feeling…

Did you ever have to adjudicate for someone who was gay, who was queer?

No, I didn't. That would have been interesting. We typically didn't adjudicate for any
males, those were typically referred… because it's a patriarchal religion, anything that a
member of the priesthood, a male encountered, was usually escalated higher within the
authorities. So the bishop reports to stake president, and it's usually the stake
president that was responsible for those issues. Typically didn't get any gay issues or
lesbian issues that came through. I was the first to announce myself to everyone.
So if a member of the bishopric approached you about either being in the closet
themselves, like the situation you were in, or how to handle a member of their ward who
was queer, what would you say to them?

If they as an individual wanted to come out, I'd give them a lot of advice to be cautious,
and to be careful, and to make sure it's the decision that they wanted to make, because
it's not an easy thing to do; this was the most, aside from losing one of my kids, I
couldn't have ever don't anything more difficult. Anyone in my situation should really
evaluate where they're at, because it takes a lot of self-control, a lot of self-confidence,
to be able to make it through the public coming out, and the public ramifications of that.
I had so many people turn against me, say such mean things against me, and really try
to tear me down, which was really disheartening. But it also made it much easier for
me, because it was… what was hard for me at first was to walk away from the Church.
I'm not answering your question, I'm leading down this path… it was easier for me to
walk away from the Church, because as people… some of those emotional ties, some
of those friendships, they kept me close to the church. And as people immediately
turned their back on me, I realized that God wasn't present in their decisions. God
wasn't present with them when they were being so mean to me. So it made it easier to
walk away. But it's difficult for a lot of people, and I would caution them. It was easier
for me to walk away from the Church, but someone needs to be able to walk away from
that, or understand that they're going to face a lot of persecution. And if they asked me
for advice on how to help someone, or how to counsel someone, the best thing that they
could do is love them. My bishop when I came out to him, it was a year after I left the
Church that I finally sat him down and said, here's what's going on. I kind of kept him in
the dark. I asked him to be released, but my ex-wife kind of outed me to the whole
ward. So he knew, but I sat down with him and had a heart to heart with him. And he, I
have a lot of respect for that man. And he will always be a friend of mine, and I will
always consider him one of the best people I've ever met, because he just loved me for
who I was. And he said to me, he's like, Eric, I pray for one of two things, one that the
Church will change it's policy, or that God will give me the understanding on how to
judge this appropriately, and he said neither has happened, so I don't know what to tell
you. But he loved me for who I was and told me I was still a great person. He wasn't
happy with my decision, obviously, but he loved me for who I was, and that's the best
thing that they can do. And certainly not counsel them to get married.

That's quite extraordinary, that response of his. And it's ironic too, that you talk about
the self-confidence it takes to come out when before when you're talking about your
counseling sessions that they talked about being gay because of a lack of self-
confidence.

They helped me find my self-confidence, and it kind of turned against them, I guess…

You didn't use it quite how they expected you to…


no! (laugh)

I'm interested in your time in the LDS Family services counseling, so it's officially a part
of the Church?

Yes, and it was run by the Church.

Unlike something like Evergreen…

Which is a separate entity. I don't think the Church is too happy with Evergreen.

I don't think anyone is too happy with Evergreen…

Except Evergreen.

What was the structure of that, that counseling service? I'm interested in how it was
run, you talked a little bit about some of the content.

It was… it started off I was in one on one counseling, I was in individual counseling with
the counselor. And I don't' know why he professed to be an authority on the subject, the
guy liked to fish, and I pretty much went and listened to him tell fishing stories the whole
time. Which somehow magically straightened me out… But it was following some of
the same technique that I got at the Church office building. And he had me write down
this huge life history that detailed when I first started acknowledging my feelings, and
how i felt, and how in high school, growing up i was beat up and called fag, and called
gay, and queer, and all this in high school and everything, and how that made me feel.
And how that developed into something. But then we talked a lot about my relationship
with my father. My dad was admittedly a workaholic, and he'd even tell you that he
worked a lot, it hurts him, and he knows that, and it hurts him a lot that I say that, and
my siblings feel similarly. He's done a lot. My dad and I have a very close relationship
now, and I don't think it's because of my dad. I don't know why I'm gay. It doesn't
matter. But we focused a lot on my dad, and my dad felt a lot of guilt because of that.
So that's kind of the way that they geared that one on one discussion. But then after a
few months in that, he started to say well, now that we've resolved your father issues, I
guess, he started to explore the self-confidence thing, and said that I needed to build
healthier relationships with men, and in order to do that, I should participate in group
therapy. So I went to this group therapy session, with about, oh 7 or 8 other guys, who
were also trying to overcome the Same Sex Attraction. Most of them… I wasn't married
at the time, but most of them were married. And the idea in that counseling was to get
to a level 3 or 4 communication or something, where we'd start out by discussing just
superficial issues, the weather, politics, what's going on in everyone's lives, and how are
you doing, blah, blah, blah, just chitchat that you have with people. And then we would
delve into feelings and emotions, and having a feeling when something specific…
especially is it… and it didn't necessarily have to be on Same Sex Attraction, it didn't
have to be on gay issues, but it always went that way, especially with one guy who
always controlled the conversation. So to get to the next level of communication was to
confront that person, and really tell your feeling about how they're feeling, so it was
creating that interaction and that confrontation so that you could overcome… so that
someone could challenge you and that you could challenge back. And so that was how
they tried to get us to be a little more self-confident in addressing these issues, and
understanding that people have flaws, and it doesn't matter what your struggle or your
trial was in life, that you could still be confident with other people. And that actually
helped, that was good therapy, I could have had it anywhere, I think I lacked a lot of self-
confidence at the time, even after serving a mission and having doors slammed in my
face for two years, which was probably a good thing. Because nobody listened to me in
France. Nobody did. But it was good therapy for me, it was something that I really
needed, but it didn't ever address the gay issue, it was just basically a place for these
guys to go and whine. And I eventually got to the point where I got sick of them whining,
and I felt like I got what I needed out of it, and so I just stopped going.

So it wasn't really any sort of ex-gay program like Evergreen, it was more of, like you're
saying, general counseling program?

Yeah, except they actually had the Evergreen binders, with the Evergreen program in it,
and they gave me one of the Evergreen binders, and said hey, you can follow this and
try to overcome it. But they believed that it was more of that self-confidence issue type
thing, so they tried to address it in other ways. They also tried to get me to participate in
this ex-gay basketball team sort of thing. A lot of issues that men with Same Sex
Attraction face is that they can't play sports, so we're going to get you together and
teach you how to play basketball! I'm like, oh boy… I never wanted to do it, I had no
interest. Because BASKETBALL is going to solve it!

I imagine those would be fun games to watch.

(laughing) I bet they would!

What is the time period for this?

This was in 1999, so it was right after my mission. I got off my mission in February of
'99, and it was probably in March of '99 that that started.

And did you know that you were gay on your mission?

Oh, I"ve always known.


What was that process like, going on a mission, and knowing?

It was difficult, it was kind of strange… Because I knew before I left, one of the hardest
parts was the MTC, the Missionary Training Center, because they have those group
showers, and so… that always presented kind of a difficult problem for me, at 19 years
old and taking a shower with 20 other men. So I would wake up at like 4:30 in the
morning so I could take my shower alone, and then I'd go back to bed, or I'd sit in the
hallway and study while everybody else slept. Because I definitely knew, and I knew
that I was attracted to them, so I would try to avoid the restrooms at peak hours,
because I was trying to stay away from it, so I wasn't indulging in something that was
evil, or sparking up these feelings. So I always knew, so the MTC was definitely the
most difficult… but then going on my mission, I never… I heard a lot of people say that
they were attracted to their companions, and that they had little… that they may have
even acted out with one of their companions. And that was never a problem for me,
probably because I never found any of them attractive… but given where I was, I was
really trying hard. I was a good missionary. I made my mistakes, yeah, and because it
was a tough place. France was a tough place to be a missionary. And even with my
own issues, France was a very difficult place to be a missionary. So I made my
mistakes. But I felt like I was a pretty good missionary, and I tried really really hard. So
I tried to stay away from it as much as I possibly could. I only found one of my
companions mildly attractive, but he was so strange, and that really overrode any
physical attraction.

This was early '90s?

January '97 I left.

So you came out right after you came back from your mission; what was it about that
timing that made you choose then?

I got back from my mission and was skiing with my dad, and I fell and I dislocated my
shoulder. I had a stickshift car, I couldn't drive my car, so I couldn't go anywhere, and I
had to wait until I got my arm out of a sling until I could go look for a job. So I was kind
of stuck and home. My parents were both working, my brother and sister were at
school, and I was home alone. And there was a computer there. So I was just kind of
looking at stuff on the internet, and I didn't know how to delete my browsing history. I
was at a friends house one night, and my mom discovered my browsing history and
called me and asked me to come home. So I went home, and she was in tears,
bawling, so that's when I was forced to come out to her, and she went into this whole,
I'm ok with it, and I can live the rest of my life without grandkids, and blah, blah, blah,
which really kind of guilted me into going and talking to the stake president, blah blah
blah.
Along those lines, sexuality has often been regarded as shameful by the Mormon
Church, in general - how has your perspective on sexuality evolved and how do you see
it now?

It's changed a lot; I think they're afraid of sexuality, and I think that it's a problem for the
Church. I think their fear of sexuality is a big big problem, because it encourages
people to… I heard a study where Utah is the highest consuming state in the nation for
pornography. And the Church just is… speaks out so strongly against pornography,
which is fine, and I agree that there are evils associated with it, but I think they take it to
an extreme, to the point where they think that if a wife catches her husband looking at
pornography on the internet, all of a sudden he's cheating on her and their marriage is
over, and he needs to go to therapy to overcome this, and I… sexuality is who we are,
and it's a part of who we are. And by hiding it and suppressing it so stringently, I think
that people tend to act out very negatively towards harmful… I mean, if they adopted a
more… they can still have their same policy, but if they're a little more relaxed and open
to sexuality, heterosexual, homosexual, whatever it be, that people would be a lot
happier, more understanding, a lot more open with each other. And have more fulfilling
marriages, I think. And deeper, more profound relationships with themselves and with
their other church members. Sexuality for me has changed in that I'm not afraid of it
anymore, so it's not an issue any more. I don't think about it as much anymore, where it
was always a prevailing though. And now it's just a part of life, and it's kind of
haphazard kind of just the way it is.

It seems by focusing on it so stringently, that it's drawing attention to it, so it's blowing it
way out of proportion; it almost seems like you're saying by loosening the extreme focus
that it becomes a non-issue all of a sudden.

Right, well it sensationalizes it, to the point that they pursue it. And when you pursue it
all of a sudden you're damned, and all life falls apart, and I don't think that's healthy.
And I think that's where you lead into other issues. And I'm not a scientist, I don't study
social sciences, so I don't know if that leads into pedophilia or other things where kids
get hurt or people get raped or whatever happens, but I think it leads to unhealthy
relationships, and in extreme cases leads into other things that are more offensive and
more harmful.

What's your relationships with religion and spirituality now?

When I first came out, I decided that I loved God. And God loved me. And I tried to
love God as the Mormon God. And I tried to have God love me as the Mormon God.
And then I decided that wasn't working for me. And then I decided that I could be a
spiritual person with whatever God is. If He/She/It, it doesn't… I think God is us, God is
a person… I don't know. But I believe that I am… I believe more that we are connected
to each other. I believe that there may be a higher power, or a higher energy, I think that
ultimately what creates spirituality amongst all of us is the desire to do good and reach
out and do good to others and for others. That's one reason I started volunteering at the
TINT, because I did a lot of service in the Church, and when I stepped away from the
Church, I missed reaching out and helping others, and serving others, and for me that
was spirituality. Being good and being connected to other people, reaching out outside
myself and doing something that wasn't selfish, that for me is spirituality, making the
world a better place. And I think that improves your overall karma, my karma, the karma
of the world, whatever you define it, the overall spirituality, the overall energy around us;
I think being good and helping others is what it's all about. So whatever someone's
spirituality would be, as long as they're not tearing someone else down, taking
something away from someone else, hurting someone else, and they're contributing and
giving back and helping, and making the world a better place. I think that's true
spirituality, and I think that's where we find our true connection with God, with our
spirituality, and with ourselves. I think that's when we really become good spiritual
beings. I'm not there yet. I'm selfish in a lot of ways, I like my time. And sometimes it's
difficult to give up a night a week to go to the TINT, and you know, I"ve canceled a few
nights to go do selfish tinges, but I've got room to grow.

Well, I know we certainly appreciate having you there.

It's fun.

For the viewers who don't know what the TINT is, or what the Pride Center is, how does
that link into your volunteerism, and your spiritual practice, being a part of what the TINT
is?

So the TINT is the Tolerant Intelligent Network of Teens, so it's an activity center for
youth, for queer youth, but for at risk youth as well. Coming out of the Church, I did a lot
of work with youth in the Church. When I first started working with youth, I was really
intimidated by it, I was really scared, because when I was 12, I swear I was 30 years old
when I was 12, and so I was never really a teenager, and I didn't bond with people as a
teenager, so youth scared me. And then as I started to work with them in the Church, I
really enjoyed spending time with them. So when I heard about the TINT, and that there
was an organization within the Pride Center, the Community Center for Gays, that
supported youth, I got really excited about that, that there was something, that there was
one, kids that were courageous enough, brave enough to come out at an early age, I
think that's really cool, I just admire those kids for their courage, to do what they do.
And then to be a part of that and work with them and mentor them and volunteer with
them, in any capacity, no matter what it was, even to clean the floors, just to be in that
type of environment, I thought would be really neat, would be really cool. So just to be
with the kids, to talk with them about what's going on in their lives, what high school is,
what life is, what family life is, and then to share some of my experiences with them, and
then just to talk to them about their life. Draw from them their experiences and learn
from them; it's as good for me as it is for them. So it's a good place for them to be, to
associate with other kids who are like them, so that they can find strength in who they
are, and they can find healthy ways to identify with the their… what they may be
struggling with at that time. And it's fun to participate with them in that. And it's fun to
watch them grow and become better people. I think that's a lot of fun. I want to get
involved, I want to get more involved, on a grander scale, as I get more time, and more
experience, as time progresses, I'd like to find other opportunities to reach out, even
beyond the TINT to see what more I can do to contribute.

You talk about High School. And you went to Jordan High?

I did!

What was the time period for that?

I graduated in '96.

What was that like, knowing that you're gay, but being closeted, and being at Jordan.
It's a huge huge high school.

I hated it. When I went into high school I got involved with band. I was king band. I did
everything that had to do with band. I think I was in four or five different band classes
my senior year. I was the drum major, I was the band president, i played every
instrument I could get my hands on. Some of the other kids that are in band are not the
most popular kids in the school, so they're a lot of nerds, a lot of kids like me, I guess. I
guess it's more diverse. So I found a place where I kind of fit in. But overall I hated high
school, I hated it. I was always picked on. I was always made fun of. I remember
walking down the hallway and the jocks, the football jocks pushing each other into me,
and yelling at me, and calling me fag, and challenging me to fights outside. I hated
gym class. Gym class was awful. My clothes were stolen out of my locker, I was always
pushed around, beat up, threatened, you know we'd do group activities. I did a weight
training class my Junior year in high school, and we had to have a spotter to help you
with the weights. And my spotter was some skinny little girl because she was the only
friend that I had and she was from my band class and the gym coach wasn't very happy
that I had this skinny little girl that was helping me lift weights. But I couldn't go to any of
the other jocks. I was uncomfortable, they would make fun of me. I remember walking
down the hallway, and some kid mooning me, meaning to be offensive, and then
shouting, oh, you probably liked that didn't you, you little fag! and then shoving me in the
locker. I hated high school. It was an awful experience.

What sort of advice would you give to queer kids who are going through some pretty
similar experiences?
Go to the TINT! Kids in my situation or kids who are abusing them?

I guess either one, if you have thoughts.

I guess the only thing I could say to kids that are abusing is to stop. I'm pulling karma,
and what you dish out's going to come back to you. I mean, they wouldn't be convinced
of that as teenagers, but I think you eventually will regret what you've done. But to kids
that are struggling with it, they're in a difficult situation. A lot of it is dependent on their
family situation. It would be nice if they could be who they are, if they could come out
and be who they are, but the best thing that they could remember is that there is life
after high school.

And lots of it.

And lots of it. And that they're going to be on their own one day, and they're going to
have their own education or their own jobs, and whatever their family situation is, they
can get away from it if it's a bad situation. They can get away from it. But whatever
they're in at that time is temporary, even though high school seems like the end of the
world and there is no life after high school. That's where life begins, and as long as they
can endure through it, stay healthy, stay away from substance abuse, and they can keep
alive, they're going to be ok. They're going to make it. And the reason I say go to the
TINT, is that way they have other support, they have other people like them. And if they
don't have that, they just need to stick it through, because there's hope, and they'll make
it. I did. I did, and I went through hell.

If one of your kids came out, what would you tell them?

I'd be so happy! I'd feel bad for him or her because I knew that it's not easy. Socially,
it's not easy to be gay. But I'd be happy for him because I know that he wouldn't
struggle, he or she, wouldn't struggle the way I did. And that one of my kids could life a
fulfilled, happy life, who they are, perfectly content, perfectly loved, and supported, by
their parents, and I think my ex would love and support them too. For who they are. I'd
be very happy for them. But I'd also give them a lot of advice. Same rules apply
whether they're straight or gay, same rules on sex and safety still apply when they're
teenagers. I'm still their dad.

What would some of those rules be?

Actually, I think it would be good… I think I will teach my kids abstinence. Because I
want to teach… straight or gay, I want them to stay away from disease, infection, and
pregnancy if they were straight, or for my daughter. So abstinence would be something
I think… Abstinence would be important for while they're in high school. And if not I will
teach them about safe sex. My kids, my boys will have a condom in their wallet. I don't
think their mom's going to be too happy about it. But I'm going to give them one,
because kids are kids, boys are boys, and girls are girls, and teenagers, and no matter
what situation, they may find themselves in a situation they can't control, or they don't'
think they can control, and at least if they have something that will help in that situation,
that's important. So on sexual issue,s I think that's important to teach my kids. So I will
teach them the whole, I'll give them the whole sex education speech from beginning to
end and hope that they make the right choices.

All these stories about being in high school happened around a decade ago; what do
you think is any sort of change you've seen since then as far as politics, the culture
surrounding it, our community, the way it's viewed by people outside our community, that
kind of thing.

Things are improving for our community. I really think we have a long way to go. But
things are improving. They're a lot different from when I was in high school. There's no
way I could have come out in high school. I would have been too scared. I had safety
issues as it was, and I wasn't out. So if I had come out, I would have had serious safety
concerns. But there are kids… I went and chaperoned at Queer Prom this year, which
was a lot of fun for me, because it was cool to see al these kids who were out and open,
and there was no way that was happening when I was in high school. At least that
would have been advertised at my high school. So things are improving for kids, that
they can come out at such an early age. And they can feel comfortable, and they don't
have as significant safety concerns as I did. So that's really encouraging. I think our
community at large is making a lot of strides. We have so much to go. And we have a
lot to learn in our own community. Sometimes we're offensive to others as well, in the
way that we protest. I think it's good that we protest, and that we speak out for our
rights, but I don't think we always do it intelligently. There are two sides to every
pancake. We just need to make sure that we're respectful as we go about it.
Sometimes it does call for us to be vocal and out. We're improving. It will take a lot of
time though, a lot of effort.

Well our time is almost up. Do you have anything you want to close on, any thoughts
that weren't quite reached, that you wanted to bring out?

Not that I can think of.

Ok, cool. Well thank you so much Eric, that was awesome! Some really really
interesting information.