George and I, I believe, have attended the same schools (not hard in my small hometown) since middle school, but we've known each other since high school. My clearest memories of him take place our senior year when we shared a creative writing class. For the longest time I felt like I was such a horrible example to him.
I cursed like a sailor and knew my very sweet, unassuming teacher probably didn't appreciate it. Though a godless girl, I wanted to be nice knowing we were about to share our stories with the entire class.
"I don't know if I should keep this one line like this," I said.
"It scared the shit out of me. I think I should change it to It scared me to death."
George floored me with his response. "No, keep 'shit.' It sounds better."
Another time my boyfriend, my brother, and I took him off campus during a rally. He didn't have a pass. We pretended his pass was in his backpack in the back of the car, and with the line forming behind us, the security guard let us go.
Honestly that was about as bad as I was. But for George, each of these things were uncharacteristic.
See, George was a member of the church. Born and raised. One of the nicest guys I knew. Voted "most likely to stay in town." He rarely brought up the church with my boyfriend and I. He kept to his standards but didn't preach.
George and I kept in touch after graduation. In time, I was more willing to hear about the church. He told me about the Article of Faith stating that we are not punished for Adam's transgression. I ate that up. Loooooved it. It went along with everything I'd always believed but wasn't taught.
I wasn't ready for more, though.
A few months later, I met the girl who would later introduce me to Institute and the Church. It took me about eight or nine months to decide to get baptized. I contacted George and invited him down the hill to witness it and be a part of my confirmation circle.
And of course he came. Told me afterward, "The Spirit was so strong it was almost tangible."
I still agree.
Regarding my confirmation, George had to get special permission from his bishop to be part of the circle. At the time I thought it was mere formality since he was part of a different stake. I don't know now if that's true. Maybe it was my bishop's preference. But perhaps it was something more. I'll have to ask.
While I remember most of the men who participated in my confirmation circle, George and the guy who gave me the gift of the Holy Ghost stand out the most. He (George) even gave me my very first LDS version of the Bible (for any non-member readers, it's simply a KJV Bible with LDS footnotes). I still have that Bible. It's worn and still the one I refer to in my readings and writings.
Sometime after my baptism, George began attending my Institute classes. He enjoyed telling everyone he was a Mormon boy working at a cafe. Then the day came when he showed up to class sporting blue hair and a shirt stating "You know you want me." Everyone laughed, but more out of shock. You don't see that very often, and for me this was certainly not the George I knew.
He also had a habit of trying to tell people that he couldn't go on a mission. I'm proud to say I had good friends who didn't judge him (at least to my knowledge) and didn't care to know whatever indiscretion kept him from his mission. We always stopped him before he could confess.
For reasons which could be due to anything, we lost track of one another. I emailed him to let him know of my upcoming wedding and invited him to my reception (I wasn't inviting many to my wedding b/c my family couldn't be there and it seemed callous to invite too many).
I don't know when the email finally came, but I was at Eric's mom's house checking my email when I received one from George. I'm gay, he said, and I can't believe that God doesn't want me to love and be loved. He was leaving, moving to Oregon for a new life.
In my stupidity I emailed him back and said that I regretted his decision, sympathized perhaps a little more than he realized, and that I would never ever let anything get in the way of my membership in the church and hoped he'd change his mind.
Fast forward about six or seven years and I find him on Facebook, cautious but willing to befriend me once more. He lives with his boyfriend Miles in San Francisco and is a gay rights activist. In time he learned I was more friend than foe, compassionate if nothing else. I get to see him again for the first time since our wedding reception in 2002 at the Sunstone West Symposium at the end of this month, and I very much look forward to it.
George is today a leader in Affirmation: Gay and Lesbian Mormons and has been a very active part of the push to have Prop 8 fail and now overturned. He's one of the good guys protesting at the temple. I invite you all to visit his Affirmation page. If you saw the clip above, he is the good looking guy in a suit getting yelled at by the lady. His calmness astounds many. I know I probably would've lost it, but we all know how impressive those people look like. There's power and authority in those who can keep their cool, and they all have my respect.
I'm very proud to know him, hope he knows how much I respect him and that I now don't fear and will fight harder next time for him and those like him. I also wanted to share this with you all in an effort to lighten things up a bit around here. Hope you like.
Other links: Facebook Affirmation page
USA Today: Meeting of gay Mormons delayed indefinitely
SeaQua.com LDS Church blasts Affirmation for taking its message public
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