Thursday, July 20, 2017

My Agenda

(Artist: Jocelyn Gardiner)

Every now and then I am questioned about my “secret agenda” by the various communities I participate in and identify with. The truth is I do have an agenda, but it’s not a secret. I openly advocate for my agenda with honesty and authenticity.

My Feminist Agenda

My feminist agenda is to create an existence where biological sex and gender do not mandate unnecessary expectations and limitations of what a person is capable of.

I maintain the importance of feminism, because globally women have and do experience more institutional, political, economic, and physical abuse, oppression, and subjugation than men. Even though that is the case, I extend my feminist agenda beyond the needs, wants, and desires of women. 

My feminist agenda includes a future that not only recognizes our similarities, but also our unique differences. Yet, gender liberation requires equal opportunity despite these differences. While anatomical, physical, and logical limitations are present, it is my desire that we can transcend the unnecessary limitations in liberating persons from certain social constraints. While there is power and creativity to be found in constraints, there are also limitations that prevent further exploration of power and creativity.

As a Mormon, this means to see each other as God sees us, because all are alike unto God (2 Nephi 26:33), and finding prosocial ways to reconcile these differences while transcending limitations that would lead us to radical love.

My Queer Agenda

My queer agenda is to live in a world where radical love is recognized and encouraged.

My queer agenda includes, in part, the advocacy of homosexuality as a moral and prosocial option—though my queer agenda certainly isn’t limited to simply matters of homosexuality. There are also such oppressions in other queer relationships, including plural relationships.

Most opposition toward queer relationships seems to arise from a sense that it is immoral according to God, or fear of the unknown. However, according to scripture, there is no fear in love (1 John 4:18-19) and love is capable of overpowering sin (1 Peter 4:8). In fact, the pursuit to thwart informed, consensual expressions of love is among the most grievous forms of immorality.  To seek to oppress love is to oppress God. There is no God without love (1 John 4:8) when love is the fulfillment of the law (Romans 13:10) and the greatest of the commandments (Mark 12:30-33).

I suspect that those in opposition to queer or plural relationships do not see themselves as oppressing love, and would likely agree with the scripture references above. So the question at hand is can love (romantic and/or sexual) be expressed outside boundaries of heterosexual monogamy? Can people love differently and can differing practices be respected and even celebrated?

For example, I like tomatoes. Others may or may not like tomatoes. There is nothing inherently moral or immoral about liking tomatoes. Immorality would be those who don’t like tomatoes insisting that everyone must not enjoy tomatoes, or even worse, must lose the desire for tomatoes entirely. Immorality would also be those who like tomatoes insisting that those who don’t like tomatoes are immoral for not desiring tomatoes. Morality is dependent upon how we choose to reconcile diverse desires, not that we necessarily adopt each other’s values. If it helps, substitute the word “tomatoes” for “women” or your preferred gender(s).

If a person considers a certain type of relationship as sin, they should have the burden of demonstrating how and why it is harmful to the individuals and community. This would require an explanation more sophisticated than “I don’t like tomatoes, therefore you can’t like tomatoes.” You may not desire what I desire, but that doesn’t make it a sin. Likewise, I may not desire what you desire, but that doesn’t make it immoral either. Morality is how we reconcile the fact we love, value, and desire differently which is also its own form of radical love. Those who can accept and love others who love plurally and/or homosexually may also be participating in radical love.

Radical love is far broader than queer love or sexual expressions, though it includes queer love and sexual expressions. Radical love sometimes means refraining from sexual engagement. Radical love sometimes mean enjoying sexual engagement. Radical love is a pedophile seeking professional help and social involvement so they don't injure a child. Radical love is not shaming or injuring the pedophile. Radical love is a mother who gives her life for her child. Radical love is curing diseases. Radical love is forgiveness. Radical love is remorse. Radical love is resurrection. Radical love is a creation of ideas, worlds, and life. Radical love includes so much more than sex.  I think radical love is a necessary mandate for all of us and certainly is also a part of my Transhumanist agenda.

My queer agenda is one of radical compassion and love, even compersion. I want to live in a world where radical love, even queer relationships, is not discouraged, or pointed at and called “sin,” but rather recognized in all its diverse expressions.  I want to live in a world where mutual, consensual expressions of love are not simply tolerated, but celebrated. I want to live in a world where queer love isn’t perceived as a threat that needs to be stamped out or feared, but rather something we embrace as a diverse option, not mandate. I want to live in a world where the word love is used honestly and unselfishly. I suspect others also want that which requires we start trusting each other in faith, not fear, to unify us (Colossians 3:14).

While there are certainly prosocial and antisocial ways of engaging in any sexual relationship--whether they are heterosexual, homosexual, monogamous, or plural, my queer agenda is to find ways of engaging and/or disengaging in sexual relationships that promote radical love.

My Transhumanist Agenda

My Transhumanist agenda is to become a part of a radically compassionate,
super-intelligent posthumanity.

Transhumanism, broadly defined, is the ethical use of science and technology to radically improve and enhance the human condition. Transhumanism holds that we can evolve beyond our current physical, cognitive, and social limitations. Social justice and human rights issues are a part of addressing humanity’s physical, cognitive, and social limitations.

While some opponents may argue that Transhumanism is an unworthy, even oppressive cause due to the lack of universal accessibility, I would contend that the wisest approach is a joint effort to continue to develop technologies while simultaneously acting to mitigate for risks and concrete threats, such as oppression, violence, and ignorance. Social side effects of technologies should be assessed and addressed while continuing to develop better implementations. For example, not all women can afford prenatal care, but should we stop developing prenatal care? No. Instead we seek to find ways to get more women prenatal care while continuing to create better technologies.

Utopia isn’t a place that just magically appears, it’s a direction. Utopian visions may differ according to desires, but who could argue that utopian visions, even religion, have not given us hopeful trajectories? Of course we can and should do better, and that’s exactly the point. The improvement of humanity includes social justice, human rights, radical love, and compassion under its umbrella. Pioneering a better tomorrow is not about naiveté to risk—it’s about hope, faith, and trust in overcoming risk.

My Mormon Agenda

My Mormon agenda is to become Gods, that is one with God, and live with our loved ones in
celestial glory for all eternity in a state of eternal progression.

This is Mormonism and I hold it to be a worthy cause. However, for me, celestial glory is not heaven within the confines of patriarchal authority that neglects and subjugates my sex. Celestial glory is not heaven without my LGBTQ+ family and the radical expansion of love. Celestial glory is not heaven if we don’t make it happen, right here, right now, on earth (Doctrine and Covenants 88:18-20). Celestial glory is scripturally and literally of our own making as we join the Body of Christ as exemplified by Jesus.

Most LDS Mormons don’t have a problem with this agenda, until it comes to changing policy, questioning authority, or challenging dogma. However, accomplishing the primary Mormon objective mandates that we change and adapt policy. Eternal progression is not something independent of our efforts, nor is it the sole responsibility of church leaders to implement. God cannot meaningfully reveal what we would not meaningfully accept, due to agency (Moses 4:3-4). If we are racist, so are our policies, rituals, and interpretations.  If we are sexist, so are our policies, rituals, and interpretations.  If we are heterosexist, so are our policies, rituals, and interpretations. If we are insincere, so are our policies, rituals, and interpretations. God has granted us the agency to either achieve transcendence or commit our own destruction (Alma 29:4-5).

If we are members of the LDS Church, it is not simply our prerogative to change ourselves, and by extension, change policy and the Church, but it is our imperative duty if we are to accomplish the primary Mormon objective. I choose faith in the Mormon agenda which is to become Gods and live with our loved ones beyond this earthly life for all eternity in a state of eternal progression. Eternal progression, in all its forms, is indispensable to Mormon doctrine. But that won’t happen without our collective works. Faith without works is dead (James 2:20).

My Agenda

My agenda is to create the tangible manifestations of radical love.

My agendas might seem unrelated to an outside observer, but for me, they are one in the same. For many people these issues are quite literally a matter of life and death. Life comes with risk—real existential risk on both a global and individual level. I don’t want to exist in a world of eternal subjugation, oppression, ignorance, or fear where radical love is trampled upon and suffering is greeted with apathy. If that is the case, we are no longer working toward heaven, but rather hell. 

I want to compassionately work toward an existence where people can live and love freely, without the limitations of oppression, selfishness, hopelessness, and death. Any transcendent existence I want to build and be a part of includes the radical compassion of all of humankind seeking to build a better existence with reconciliation of diversification. I’m not perfect at it, but I think it’s a worthy aspiration.

*This post is a personal commentary of my own desires and objectives, and I am speaking as an individual and not as a spokesperson for the many non-profits and advocacy groups that I lead and/or affiliate with. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

You are not porn. You are the Sun.

(Artist: Eric-Jan Leusink)

I often hear people talk about widening the canopy of Mormonism to be more inclusive of various interpretations, orthodoxy, and orthopraxy, similar to Catholicism. I’m highly in favor of such aspirations, particularly with regard to orthopraxy.

While I stopped wearing garments three years ago, Mormonism is very much a part of my identity. My clothes might challenge orthopraxy, but my heart still bleeds orthodoxy, which is different than dogma. For me, garments were a reminder of the patriarchal oppression that I experienced in the temple. Some of the most beautiful aspects of Mormon theology are taught in the temple, like theosis, eternal sealings and priesthood power. However, all are dripping with androcentric esthetics and patriarchal policies. Temple depictions of heaven felt more like hell, so I stepped back to reassess. I think about returning to the temple from time to time and someday I might, but currently the wound is still too deep.

Since I don’t wear garments, I sometimes wear sleeveless clothing. I wear tank tops to school, I wear short shorts to go visiting teaching, and yes, I wear sleeveless dresses to church. Honestly, I don’t even notice it anymore. I wear what I like, because it’s comfortable and it makes me feel good. Most people don’t seem to mind either, or if they do they don’t overtly express it. I’ve worn sleeveless dresses while bearing my testimony of Jesus Christ and speaking at a baptism. With patience and time, most have become relatively accepting. Of course there have been a few who passive-aggressively comment on my esthetics, or glance at my legs or shoulders in disapproval, but that’s more a reflection of their issues, not mine.

I’m not going to lie, at first it was hard. The hardest part was getting over my own dogma and insecurities. First, I had to stop shaming my shoulders and stop giving unnecessary social power to others before I could persuade them to do the same. I had to accept that I could be a “good Mormon” even though that didn’t include LDS temple garments. Some aspects of orthopraxy require explicit communal sanction, but this wasn’t one of them.

A friend once offered me a good piece of advice. She said, “If you act like you belong, most people will let you belong.” She was right. I had to stop privileging their view and trust that I belonged to the community, even when my orthopraxy differed from theirs.

I’ve heard some Mormon feminists talk about having a #PornShoulders March to protest the objectification of Mormon women’s shoulders. I think this is a mistake. It will likely be perceived by certain members as a teenage girl throwing a temper tantrum because her daddy said she couldn’t leave the house dressed like that. I do not believe this is the intention, but likely the perception. This will cause those whom need to be persuaded to tighten their grip on the worldview that makes them feel safe, which includes the objectification of women’s shoulders, my shoulders, our shoulders, and even their own shoulders. They will cling to that which we wish to dispel.

It reminds me of one of Aesop’s Fables, The North Wind and the Sun:

“A dispute arose between the north wind and the sun, each claiming that she was stronger than the other.  At last they agreed to try their powers upon a traveler, to see which could soonest strip him of his cloak. The north wind had the first try; and, gathering up all her force for the attack, she came whirling furiously down upon the man and caught up his cloak as though he would wrest it from him be one single effort. But the harder she blew, the more closely the man wrapped it around himself. Then came the turn of the sun. At first she beamed gently upon the traveler, who soon unclasped his cloak and walked on with it hanging loosely about his shoulders. Then she shone forth in her full strength, and the man, before her had gone many steps, was glad to throw his cloak right off and complete his journey more lightly clad.”

We must be the Sun—calm, patient, powerful, smart, bold, unyielding, and effective.

We must protest with persuasion. Stop privileging objectification. Stop hash tagging PornSholders. Stop perpetuating a partisan narrative that disservices the cause. Instead, privilege your view—the one that says God loves and accepts you and your shoulders at church. That is how we widen the Mormon canopy.

You are not porn. You are the Sun.

Friday, July 14, 2017

The Contortionist

(Artist: Robert Popkin)

I can stretch and bend,
put my feet behind my head.
I can smile real big,
and grow my skin thick.
Hold my breath for days.
Dress myself a million ways.
Repress a tear or two.
Laugh on cue.
Hold it together.
Cinch it tight.
Lengthen the stride.
Subdue the fight.
I can be anything for you.

but me.

I can twist my neck,
to suit your perspective.
Be your favorite fantasy.
Better than ecstasy.
Intermingled all night long,
I’ll moan you a song.
Tell you what you want to hear.
Placate your fears.
Take your pick.
I can be anything for you.

but me.

Wherever I go,
Whatever I do,
It’s up to you.
I’ll follow your rules.
How could I refuse?
Simply a toy you could enjoy
while I pretend to be coy.
Whenever you're done, toss me aside.
You can ignore that I cried. 
I'll stick to procedure.
Pretend to be eager.
Whatever you choose,
I can be anything for you.

but me.

But I’m more than machine.
I’m an actual human being,
with my own wants, thoughts and tasks.
But you wouldn’t know, you didn’t ask.
Because the truth is
you don’t know me.
You wanted the girl in a costume,
with extreme flexibility,
to absolve you of accountability,
and relinquish responsibility,
without your sensibilities,
you mock my authenticity,
without regard to my sensitivity,
with ruthless civility,
You wanted—

but me.

But the tragedy is
you could say the same to me.