Queer Spirituality, A Podcast

Coming later this year . . . Queer Spirituality, a podcast.

Queer Spirituality is a weekly podcast that I will be doing as a personal project and as part of my master’s degree. It is an ethnographic investigation into how people straddle the world of sexuality and spirituality, queerness and religion. With so much rhetoric around and so many lives affected by the seemingly clashing worlds of “queer lifestyle” and “pious believer,” I am doing a long series of interviews that focuses on the lived experience. How does gender and sexuality queerness affect people’s belief in God? How does interaction with the queer community change performance within a religious community? Why does religion negatively affect some queer people, and how does religion positively affect others?

For the sake of this podcast, I define queer and spirituality in the broadest sense in order to try to encompass all possible lived experiences. By queer, I mean anyone who is LGBT+, anyone who is an LGBT+ ally, and anyone who has felt a profound impact from the queer community on their spirituality and religious performance. By spirituality, I mean anything that takes you out of the mundane and into a state of transcendence, a sacredness. I want to interview anyone from the strongest atheist to the most devout disciple.

If you would like to be interviewed or if you know anyone who wants to be interviewed, please contact me! I can do interviews through Google Hangouts, phone call, Skype, in person (depending on where you are), etc.

Some Vulnerable Thoughts on Father’s Day

I debated back and forth about posting this blog. Father’s day is meant to be a day of rejoicing in fatherhood and the amazing awesomeness that fathers bring to the table. But, I promised myself that I would be more vulnerable, so here’s some raw vulnerability for you few who follow my blogging exploits.

Father’s day is a difficult day for me for two reasons. The first deals with my own father. At this moment, I do not have contact with my father. I haven’t spoken to him for almost nine years. Honestly, I’m not even sure I could point him out in a crowd because I have no pictures or mementos of him. This isn’t because he has passed on; it’s simply because on a fateful day in December I chose to estrange myself in order for me to live a good and happy life.

I’ll probably always remember that day. Walgreens parking lot. Two days to Christmas. Accosting. Why haven’t you come over to our house? When are you coming over? The dread. The tears. Talking to my mom. Talking to my bishop. Making a phone call. And then, click. No more father in my life.

I’ve struggled a lot with this moment—my estrangement from my dad and stepmom. I remember discussing it with multiple people from my mother to my ecclesiastical leader to friends to a therapist briefly. I remember logically processing the entire event and the why behind it all. I remember how six months later I began emotionally processing it—an emotional process that is still happening to this day.

On my mission, I wrote to my mission president to discuss this estrangement with him. I had felt promptings to write my father a letter because he sent me one. My mission president encouraged me to write, even after I had explained to him what it was like growing up and the reason I had estranged myself. I started that letter many times, but I never finished it.

When I went to Australia, the place where my father served his mission, I felt a kinship. While the friends that I went with attended church, I chose to walk around. I wrote a letter to my father then. I never sent it.

A few years ago, on father’s day, I went home from church and wept for two hours. My best friend held my hand and gave me a hug later that day, but I didn’t tell him why I had shut down from social contact. I never tell anyone.

Father’s day always passes me with feelings of forlornness and wanting. My relationship with my father is nonexistent, but there is still a connection inside me. And this day brings that feeling to bear. A multitude of what if scenarios play through my mind and the raw feeling of wanting things to be different permeates my being. “I love my father; I just can’t have him in my life.” The mantra that played through most of my latter teenage years as I cycled through these emotions.

The second reason father’s day is a difficult day for me deals with a question.

Will I ever be a father? Ever since I was young, I’ve wanted to be a parent. I’ve wanted to have children—and not just one or two. I wanted a decent amount of them. Perhaps it was my Mormon upbringing, perhaps it was my semi-only-child-childhood. Whatever it was, I had this desire.

Then, growing to comprehend my sexuality jostled that dream. In the first years that I truly wrestled with sexuality, one of the fundamental things I did not, I could not, give up was this desire to have children. It kept me up late at night. How could someone with these feelings have children in the Mormon faith? At the time, I was a very active LDS participant, so it was the lens that I saw the world through. I kept coming back to questions surrounding that premise—can I marry a woman with these feelings in order to fulfill my dream of having children and being a father? Can I overcome these feelings so I can have children? My prayers for relief from my sexuality centered around that fervent dream—to have children, to be a father.

A few years later, my thoughts and prayers transformed. I was no longer praying for God to take away my sexuality so I could have children and raise a family and be a father. Instead, I was considering other avenues, asking new questions. Can I be a Mormon and be a single parent? Can I find a woman who is okay with marrying a gay man and adopting children? Still, the more prominent questions appeared, questions that I’m now ashamed to have asked. Can I hide my sexuality from my wife and fake it in order to have children and be a father?

I don’t ask questions like that anymore. As I’ve come to accept my sexuality, there’s come with it a dullness to the thrumming desire for children. Do I still want them? I don’t know. When I hold the children of friends, like little Felix and tiny David, I think, fleetingly, that I want that. When playing with young Eli after a dinner at a friend’s house, I thought, I want my own tiny human, one that I can raise and call my own. I cried the entire way home from that dinner because the desire—and the reality of my situation—was too much to handle.

The desire now only comes fleetingly, like a whisper of wind through a partially open window, caressing my thoughts but then gone in moments. Like today, when I sat in Shake Shack and watched children running around Harvard Square as I typed away, the desire twinged, but only a little, and then it was gone.

I don’t know if I’ll ever get a tiny human. Right now, it’s not a possibility; it may never be a reality. There’s not much hope for children in a gay man’s world.

Harvard Feels, Part 2

Well, friends, I made it here. After a thousand-something-mile car ride to Kansas, I spent some lovely time with my mother, grandmother, and brother, and then I took a red eye to Boston where I was picked up by my loving friend Madeline and the next morning I was in my dorm. Some of the people in the dorm have been asking me if it’s been a hard transition, and truth be told, the moving part isn’t that difficult. Moving is rather easy for me. Transitioning is a little more difficult.

I’ve felt rather despondent since being here. It’s a lonely process, moving to a new place. You upend all of your habits and have to form new ones. For example, I miss going to gym in the early morning. Now all I have is a little fitness room to go to, and it isn’t the same. I miss going to Costco on Sundays with my roommate. I miss my Starbucks near University Place. I miss my people. I was discussing earlier today the process of moving with a fellow Harvard student to be, and I told her it all goes down to feeling lonely.

It’s been a little depressing too because I haven’t felt that strong feeling of correctness, rightness, about this move. For most of the moves I’ve done before, I’ve felt something strongly inside me that has confirmed it was a good decision and good things would come because of it. This move to Boston has been different. I don’t know that it is the best decision. There are a lot of factors that come into play when delving back into education, and a lot of those factors are negative factors when considering Harvard.

However, I know I will make it the right and the best decision. That’s what’s great about decisions—you make it what it is. A decision is a neutral thing; the outcome is based on you. Even things that seem like “bad” decisions can become your greatest decision.

On a different, yet connected, note, I went out into the city to explore today. I walked a block and bam, I was at the Longfellow House. (So, not that much exploring.) Henry Wadsworth Longfellow lived a block down from me. How cool is that? America’s poet in the Victorian period—America’s face at the time, according to some scholars—wrote his poetry, cared for his wife, and raised his children mere feet from where I sleep every night. I think that’s pretty legit.

In touring his house, the history of this entire place—Boston—struck me. I feel so much more connected with the history here than I ever did to the history in Utah. I actually feel like I’m walking near where giants tread. I never had that feeling when I looked into the history and sites in the West.

While on the grounds, it struck me that I’m surrounded by amazingness. I have amazing people supporting me. I have amazing history at my very fingertips. I have an amazing legacy to live up to and surpass as a writer.

So, what are my Harvard feels right now?

Anticipation. I start learning French tomorrow and get a baptism by fire back into academia. Bring it on.

Excitement. There’s so many new things around here, and I’m excited to explore them all.

Nervousness. Will I fit in? Will I make these two years work in my favor? Will I be okay?

Wonder. What will I do in the time I’ve allotted to Harvard and Boston? What will I accomplish? How will I fail? How I learn? And, most importantly, what will I give?

PS: Cool Longfellow history fact. His wife owned the house and all the land around the Longfellow house. She bought it from her father for $1 and love. The little feminist in my squealed at that!

Of Doors and Mountains

Of Doors and Mountains

A prose poem

Whenever I leave a place, I write a eulogy to the place. This eulogy is of words poetic and visions imagined, hopes lost and dreams realized, doors opened and mountains climbed.

To Utah, I offer gratitude. My forming years were here, where, beneath the shadows of mountain majesty, I discovered who I was and what I wanted to give to the world. Utah has been a place of hardest challenges and strongest allies, a time of exploration and self-discovery in a place cradled between stalwart sentries.

I speak of hopes and dreams because I have legion. Some shifted, some morphed; others died, and many more perished. Some lived, some survived, some were realized. Hopes have been lost, while other dreams have been lived. I sorrow for the loss, but I rejoice in the gains—the twisted path of life is lit by the inner flame of dreams driven by hope.

To BYU, that great monolith in the middle of a small town that took up most of my time in Utah, I offer hope. I hope for a better future inside its hallowed walls. I hope for a greater sense of purpose within a place that I see as sacred for what I learned and what transpired within me while there. If a gay man can enjoy so much a place that stifles the soul, then there is hope.

I speak of doors and mountains because they represent my time in Utah: passageways and climbs. Of doors, I remember brown, red, green, and white. Brown doors led to greater knowledge; a red door led to family; a green door to discovery; and a white door toward home. Each door opened and each door closed; but each door remembered. Of mountains, I remember craggy and steep, harsh and beautiful, cloudy and clear. Each climb and each descent; but each experienced.

To you, I offer thanks. If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t have survived my time in Utah. If it weren’t for you, I would have lost who I was; instead, I discovered who I am. I live by a solemn promise I made to myself years ago: to affect each life I come in contact with just as much as my life is affected by each life I interact with. I hope that showed through.

Harvard Feels

I had dinner with my Provo family last night (my sister’s in-laws, who graciously adopted me while I was at BYU). Because they are off on professorial travels for the next month, this was our journey on dinner. I say journey on instead of goodbye and farewell because I dislike how final those two words are; by saying “journey on,” I share my hope that somewhere down the road our paths will cross again and our journeys will intertwine once more so we can buoy each other up, pat each other on the backs, and continue forward.

I have a lot of what I’m calling “Harvard feels.” In a month, I’ll be back in Kansas with my mom, grandma, and brother; two days later, I’ll be on a plane and landing in Boston for an entirely new life. I’m sure I’ll get to my room and begin to feel excited for school to start, nervous about what the future holds, stressed about learning French in eight weeks, and exhausted from the emotional overload that will have just occurred.

If you asked me a year ago if I would be attending Harvard, I would have probably shrugged and said “I don’t know.” In all honesty, I applied to Harvard on a whim. Out of all of the programs I applied for, it was my “random” program. It’s always nice to throw in a curveball when applying to things. I’m glad I applied, though, because being accepted and preparing to attend this wonderful institution has lifted up my eyes toward a life of greater heights.

Being on the cusp of this brand new adventure is rather nerve wracking, but that’s what this blog and writing in general is meant to help with. By sharing what I feel I am sharing my personal, lived experience, a testament that I was here and that I live. So, some of my feelings:

I’m excited. I’m really, really, really excited to be going back to school. This last year of not being in school has been rather difficult for me. I’ve been working an 8-hour, 7-days-a-week job, and I haven’t necessarily enjoyed it. It’s been nice and comforting to know I have money, but it also hasn’t been as fulfilling to me and my chosen and desired path. I was looking through the class list the other day of potential classes I could take and they range from the basic theories and methods of religious studies to studying the perception of the hero through literature of the seventh century. Like, how can you not be excited for that?! (It’s okay if you’re not excited for that; I understand that literary folks can be a little crazy in our excitement over the teacups Oscar Wilde drank from or the length of beard of Merlin in a French lady’s poetic retelling of King Arthur or the existential, metaphoric reason that the door is blue.)

I’m nervous. I’m really, really, really nervous about being able to survive in Massachusetts. It’s expensive. Coming from living quietly in Provo, Utah, one of the best places to rent for a student, it’s difficult to grasp just how much things cost out there. I’m also nervous about graduate school in general. Will I do well? Will I make the right connections? Will I do enough to get into a PhD program? Will I be true to myself while experiencing new things? Will I finish the goals I’m setting up for myself or will it all crumble around me and need to be rebuilt yet again?

I’m sad. I’m leaving some great people in Utah. Yes, I’m pretty good at keeping connections with people open, but that doesn’t make it less sad to leave people. Wherever I go, I try to love the most and love the hardest and the deepest because I don’t know how much time I’ll be there and how much time I’ll have with people. Doing this, though, makes me even more sad when it is time to leave and continue on in the journeys of life and pursuits of happiness.

I’m happy. I’m going to Harvard. How can someone who loves academia and research so much not be happy? I’m happy that the Harvard admissions committee allowed me to enter. I’m humbled that out of so many great candidates, they chose me. And, I’m happy that I’m getting to pursue what I want to pursue. When I was applying for schools, I was all over the place with what exactly I wanted to do, but with being accepted into this program, my plans are solidifying. They’ll always be pliable, but they’re becoming a little more focused, a little more me.

In a month, I’ll be sitting in my room in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and I’ll let you know my feelings then. For now, I have a lot of expectant feelings, but I’m also hoping to make the most of the days I have left.

Also, I was told blogs need pictures, so here’s one of me staring off into the distance while the sun sets behind me and there’s a beautiful tree too. Photo cred: Adam Sims, my roommate.

Essaying; or, Why I Blog

Talking with a friend, I realized I should take a moment to explain the reason I am blogging. My blogs are chances for me to essay. Essaying is a verb that means, literally, “to try” or “to attempt.” Michel de Montaigne (1533–1592), a French essayist, called his writings essays because he was attempting to put his thoughts onto paper. In this way, my blog is my attempt—my essaying—to try to put thoughts onto paper.

Well, screen.

To me, writing is a spiritual practice. It is a movement toward greater understanding. It is a journey toward apotheosis as I come to know my humanity better through the words I write. I write because it allows me to ruminate on a subject, not coming to a definitive conclusion, but rather opening the door to understanding, even in just a little way, the simple complexity and complex simplicity of the universe that surrounds us.

I write to think.

I also write to share. At the end of my first writing class in college, taken from one of my all-time favorite writing teachers, Lisa Harris, I was asked as a final assignment to write about writing. This is what I wrote:

Sharing Imaginary Friends

I’m an atheist; I’m a Christian. I have magic; I live in space. I argue, defend, or offend. I waltz at a ball, kill a dragon, and fall in love. Writing gives me the chance to be anything I want. Through the power of my fingertips, I’ve lived a hundred lives in black and white, even though I’m only twenty-one. I’ve grieved at a death, watched the birth of a child, and visited with angels and demons. Writing is like chipping away at the walls between imagination and reality just to peek in, say hello, and discover new friends. Writing is my tear-wetted pillow, my frolicking through an open field, and my mountain ascension. I fly; I swim; I run. Writing grants me freedom to enjoy the human experience in any possible way I can imagine. Writing defines and refines me. Writing makes me an author. Authors are people that have the privilege of sharing their imaginary friends with the world.

I still believe this is true. I can share the craziness that happens in my head through writing. I can attempt things, I can fail at things, and I can succeed at things, all through writing. This blog will be a place of failure, but it is in those places of failure that we succeed the most.

Do I Feel Safe? No.

A man walked into my store with a gun today. I was working at the front at the cash registers, and I saw it holstered on his hip, there for the entire world to see. He walked confidently next to his partner, browsing through the various books and merchandise. Did I feel safe with this man and his unconcealed gun walking around my store? Frankly, no, I did not.

I did not feel safe because he had a weapon and I had absolutely no idea if he had obtained it legally, if he had the proper permit (which, I discovered, you don’t need for some weapons in Utah), if he had the mental fortitude to be in public with a weapon, etc. etc. This man was respectable when he came up to pay for his books, but from a distance (and even in the exchange of money) I could not tell, nor could I trust, how he would use the weapon holstered at his hip.

It made me very nervous to have a man with a gun in the store. I assumed—I hoped—he wasn’t going to use it; logically, I know that most people do not have plans to use a gun to kill people. At least, I hope not. However, the presence of the weapon made me wary. This lack of comfort mostly stems from my not knowing anything about the man with the gun. I assume that everything is fine with him and that he is a law-abiding citizen, but I do not know that. And that lack of knowledge makes me uncomfortable.

Do I respect his right under Utah law to carry a gun unconcealed in a public setting? Yes, yes I do. Do I also respect my right to lobby for laws and changes to precedence that remove dangerous weapons from the public or at least seek for more secure ways for guns to be obtained so that I can have peace of mind? Yes, yes I do. Respecting law as it is while also working to change it are not two diametrically opposed actions. I respect the second amendment and the years of legal precedence that have shaped our current arguments around access and use of weapons in the public sphere; I also respect the idea that laws are fluid and meant to change as society, technology, and the world change.

Now, lest everyone begin to think they have me pegged on the gun rights argument, I believe that more thought and discourse need to happen. More options need to be on the table. Would it be best to remove every single weapon from the entire world? Yes, probably, but as much as I am an idealistic person, I’m also a realist. Would it be bad to remove all weapons from citizens when they cannot completely trust the government or even their neighbors? Yes, that would probably be bad. But, would it be good if we had better ways of keeping guns from the hands of bad people? Yes, that would be good. But, what if that good thing affects a law-abiding citizen in a bad way?

The nuances around the argument are not simply “take all the guns away” vs. “let everyone have guns because the second amendment says that.” It’s an argument that cannot be solved in a simple 600-word blog post. One thing I do know, and the reason I’m writing this, is that I felt uncomfortable when that man walked in with an unconcealed gun. I didn’t feel safe. I still don’t feel safe. But I do feel like I want to talk about this topic more. And I do feel like I want to work toward a better solution that helps me feel safe and hopefully makes the world a safer place in general.

That Was Not My Coming Out; Neither Is This

Less than a week ago, I published a blog article in which I mentioned that I was gay. Many of you expressed love, concern, and sympathy. Thank you. I want to assure you, though, that that blog post was not my coming out. And neither is this one.

I don’t like the term and idea around coming out. I think for some people it is a great moment of reclaiming their lives and setting themselves apart to be queer; it’s beautiful in that sense. To me, though, I think it reasserts heteronormativity.

The phrase heteronormativity might be unfamiliar. Heteronormativity means that heterosexuality is believed to be the norm within society. Hence, queer—or different—sexualities are placed against it, below it, or other to it. I believe, rather strongly, that if we continue to make homosexuality, bisexuality, asexuality, demisexuality, or any -sexuality different than heterosexuality, then we are doing a disservice to human nature and to the people that God created. Heterosexuality, instead of being the norm for society, is simply a point on the spectrum of our sexual experiences as a collective human population and should be celebrated, enjoyed, and discussed just as much as the other sexualities.

This is one of the reasons I have never had—nor never will have—a “coming out” post. This is why I’ve never been upfront with you in saying “I’m gay” and proclaiming it proudly to the world. It isn’t because I’m confused or unhappy with the way my sexuality expresses itself; it’s because I feel like it’s a normal part of my human experience and should be treated as such.

That being said, I’m also a realist when it comes to my ideals. I know that society is not where I would like it to be when it comes to an understanding of sexuality (which is a real shame because sexuality is pretty awesome). A quick experience I think can share what I believe a non-heteronormative world can look like:

I was texting my friend Maddie and I told her I was dating someone. She got rather excited and asked me who it was. I texted her his name. Without skipping a beat, she said that was awesome and wanted to know more about him. So, I told her more about him. Not once did she ask me if I were gay. We didn’t make it a big deal, and it’s never been a big deal since then. That is moving toward a non-heteronormative world: a world where instead of grand coming outs, we can simply say “Oh yeah, I’m dating this guy,” and it can be normal and beautiful and wonderful and we can all celebrate.

As I hope this post and my previous post show, I am very comfortable discussing my sexuality and spirituality. I’m also very well versed in it, seeing as how this is one of my academic specialties. There is another part of this post, and it’s when I get off my high horse about sexuality and share some frequently asked questions about my previous blog post to help clear some things up. So, without further ado, grab a Dr. Pepper, sit back, and let me share with you some of the answers to questions I’ve gotten from that post:

1. I’m not depressed. I’m not sad. I’m not confused. A lot of you who reached out to me wanted to make sure I was “doing okay.” I am. I’m actually doing great. I have a great life that I love. I’m preparing to attend Harvard (can I get a squeal, please?), I have wonderful people in my life who buoy me up, I have a full-time job (okay, I have four jobs, but that’s beside the point). My life is great.

If I were still struggling with what I wrote about, I would not have been able to write that post, let alone share it. I keep my struggles very close and private because they are sacred experiences to me. It is because I’m in such a good place that I was able to share those words.

2. Many of you have asked if you missed my coming out; you didn’t because I don’t want a gigantic coming out moment. I recognize that post might have been surprising. I have not talked about my sexuality with many of you. I want this to be very clear: I’m gay. I like guys.

3. If you’re a heterosexual male, no, I am not interested in pursuing you. Sure, you might be attractive, and I might recognize that, but that doesn’t mean I’m fawning over you. Why would I want to pursue you when you won’t return the favor? I’m not a huge fan of that unrequited love—sorry, William.

4. Please, feel comfortable talking to me about spirituality and sexuality. I cannot say I speak for other people; however, I have read a lot on this subject and I have learned a lot on this subject. I’m going to Harvard to pursue a master’s in theological studies focused on women, gender, sexuality, and religion. I understand this topic really well. So, please, if you’re a heterosexual Mormon who is confused about LGBT+ issues, if you’re an LGBT+ confused Mormon, if you’re someone who hates the gays™, or if you’re someone who just wants to understand a little bit better, feel free to talk with me.

A Hand to Hold

This blog post is an attempt to write about something that I keep rather private. It’s an attempt to write about something that is sacred to me. It’s an attempt (I hope the first of many attempts) to write openly about my spirituality and my sexuality.

On Sunday, I went to see a production of Lamb of God. This choir performance sings about the last week of the life of Christ. I attended at a local building of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and I came away with a lot of feelings.

I sat next to two separate couples. Halfway through the performance, the couples held hands and rested heads upon shoulders. It was intimate and close. Those people had another human who, for that moment in time, was theirs. Those humans had a connection to them that I have rarely, if ever, experienced; within a social setting, they were able to claim and be claimed at the same time. In this world of solitude, they had someone else who they could physically, emotionally, and romantically connect with.

Simply put, they had a hand to hold.

For a gay man in the LDS church, this is not a possibility at all. I’ve been told many times that it is possible to be gay and Mormon. Honestly, I do not see that possibility when one of my deepest desires is to have the connections of those couples that surround me in the church—to have a hand to hold while walking down Main Street or worshipping God. Having an intimate, romantic, physical, emotional, psychological, social, and spiritual connection with someone of the same sex is forbidden in the church. Sure, someone in that type of relationship can attend church and be a part of the community (All Visitors Welcome, right?), but they are excommunicated from the spirituality the church and the gospel it teaches provides. As a man initiated in the priesthood, I am shamed for rejecting my eternal calling of being sealed to a woman and leading an eternal home in righteousness, even though if I were humble and obedient to the Lord and bowed the knee and got married to a woman, I would be destroying that woman’s mortal and eternal life.

The most difficult thing about having been raised Mormon and being gay is that two of the most intimate parts of my life—my spirituality and my sexuality—are put at odds. I want what the church gives: the direction, the purpose, the community, the doctrine. I love the church; I grew up with it and dedicated many years of my life to it. It helped me through dark times and helped me survive an emotionally and psychologically abusive childhood without taking my own life. It’s done great things for me, and I love it and I’m grateful for it. My problem comes when my love of it is equal to the desire for a hand to hold; I want that someone to call my someone and for me to be considered his. But I also want the church and the gospel.

That’s the struggle “Mormon and gay” forces upon people who have grown up in and loved the church, yet find themselves attracted to the same sex. They want both, but one of the two says they do not want them.

Yes, most members are kind and willing to step up and show love. But, institutionally the church rejects its members who want to be accepted in the church community. I cannot sit in a sacrament meeting with the man that I am dating and hold his hand like heterosexual members can with their significant other. I’m sure that many people would be fine with me coming to church with a same-sex partner, but the institution is not comfortable with it, thereby making it a very uncomfortable reality—for what I love and want in this life, I have to give up this other part of my life. For that hand to hold, I have to give up Christ’s hand as provided through the LDS church. And that’s the hardest decision I think I’ll ever make in my life (for the record, I have not made a decision either way).

It’s the reality I face every time I come close to the church—like this past Sunday, when I attended the performance of Lamb of God. I want the feelings that come with the church—the peace from the teachings, the encouragement toward goodness, the community of people who care—but I can’t get past the fact that if I have that, I will never have a hand to hold. As it stands, there is not a place for both. And it hurts, more deeply than you can ever know.

On Form, Looking, and Being: Some Muddled Morning Post-Gym Thoughts

Over the last month or so, I’ve been consistently going to the gym. It’s been tough work. I’m not the most fit person. According to the doctor’s handy guide to body size, I’m what the medical profession would term “overweight, almost obese.” I’m sure that brings up pictures of me as a rather large person, but I don’t think I’m that large. I am no Chris Pratt post-Parks&Rec/now-GuardiansoftheGalaxy (working on it, though. #Goalz). I mean, here’s a picture of me:

Whenever I tell people I’ve been going to the gym, I get the response of, “Oh, you’re not too fat” or “You’re beautiful just the way you are.” Thank you for the positivity. The truth of the matter is I don’t go to the gym just because I’m too fat or want to lose weight. I don’t go to the gym because I want to fulfil some cultural perspective of tons of abs and super huge muscles and beautiful masculinity.

I go to the gym because I want to be healthy.

I go to the gym because I want to be fit.

And, yes, I go to the gym because I want to look great according to our cultural standards of greatness.

The reasons behind that will be in a different post, but for this one I want to focus on why I want to be fit instead of simply looking fit. Hence, why I said I go to the gym to be, not to look in the first two lines above.

I noticed today that there are a lot of people who swing weights while at the gym. This is not good form because instead of using your muscles it utilizes physics to propel the weight up and down.

I tried to put myself into the head of these weight swingers. If I were swinging weights, I could look like I’m lifting a lot of weight and thereby feel like I’m lifting a lot of weight in order to perceive that I am strong and fit and muscular. That plays right into cultural views of beauty and how we must look. It helps you think you’re doing great, but it doesn’t help you actually do great. You leave the gym feeling pumped (“I just lifted 200 pounds, bro”), but you never make any true and serious gainz.

If you use proper form—control your weight movements—then you actually begin to grow muscle, tone your body, and use the gym properly.

That’s why I want to be fit instead of look fit. Yes, I should push myself and try to lift more weights each time I go to the gym. But I shouldn’t do that at the expense of form. The gym is not a race. It’s not about who can lift the most. It’s about consistency. It’s about persistence. It’s about making yourself do better, even if it’s just a little bit better form on the same amount of weight each time.