I originally wrote this review for Epinions.com in March 2011. I am reposting it here, as/is.
As a child of the 1980s, I would have had to have been living under a rock not to know who Meredith Baxter is. The beautiful blonde actress had made her mark back in the 70s with television shows like Bridget Loves Bernieand Family, but I knew her as Elyse Keaton, feminist matriarch of the Keaton family on NBC’s hit sit-com, Family Ties. In those days, she was known as Meredith Baxter-Birney, having married her Bridget Loves Bernieco-star, David Birney. Baxter and Birney later divorced; recently, Baxter made headlines by coming out as a lesbian. I learned about all of this and more by reading Baxter’s brand new memoir, Untied: A Memory of Family, Fame, and Floundering (2011). I purchased this book for my Kindle last week and found it a quick and interesting read.
Meredith Baxter’s beginnings
After a brief introduction, explaining how she came out as a lesbian, Baxter begins describing her childhood. Meredith Baxter’s mother was an actress named Nancy Ann Whitney, who later came up with the stage name Whitney Blake. From a very early age, Baxter was required to call her mother Whitney, because Whitney didn’t want people thinking she was a mother. Baxter’s father, Tom Baxter, was a sound engineer specializing in live television and radio. Though her parents were married for ten years and had three children, their union ended when Baxter was just five years old. After the divorce, Tom Baxter remained a very small part of his children’s lives. Meanwhile, Whitney remarried twice.
Baxter grew up in southern California on the fringes of show business. Her first stepfather, Jack Fields, was an agent who helped Whitney Blake get parts that later blossomed into a successful career on television. Baxter describes Fields as cruel, manipulative, and strict, but it was Fields who helped Baxter with her own foray into show business when she was a child.
A complicated life
Though Meredith Baxter grew up to be a beautiful young woman, she comes across as a bit mixed up. In confessional prose, she admits to dabbling in drugs and alcohol, half-heartedly attempting suicide, and getting married for the wrong reasons. Nevertheless, she was both lucky and talented and eventually started working as an actress. She had two children with her first husband, Robert Bush, and three with her second husband, David Birney.
Bitterness toward Birney
Meredith Baxter has a lot to say about her second marriage to David Birney. Baxter was married to Birney for about 16 years. Their union lasted three times longer than her marriages to Robert Bush and Michael Blodgett. However, the added length of the marriage seems to have tripled Baxter’s pain. She makes some very unflattering comments about David Birney and basically describes him as an abusive narcissist.
A book about Meredith Baxter, not Family Ties…
Though Meredith Baxter does dish quite a bit about being on Bridget Loves Bernie, Family, and Family Ties, as well as a few of her better known made for television movies, I want to make it clear that this book is really about her life. And she has led a very complicated but interesting life, fraught with struggles, including alcoholism, breast cancer, and coming to terms with her homosexuality. But while there were times I kind of cringed while reading this book, I do think that ultimately, Baxter has put out a very positive memoir.
Toward the end of the book, Baxter writes about what it was like to meet and fall in love with her current partner, Nancy Locke. Though she is “out of the closet”, I still get the feeling that being out is kind of hard for her. She very candidly explains how difficult it was for her to admit and accept her feelings for women. She also explains how hard it was for her to come out to people she loves… and how their reactions to her big news were surprisingly low key. Untied also includes plenty of pictures.
I enjoyed reading this book, mainly because I’m a child of the 80s and I love biographies. I think Meredith Baxter did a fairly good job writing her life story. She really comes across as extremely human and somewhat down-to-earth. I do think she’s still in some real pain over her relationship with David Birney, but she seems to have learned from the relationship as well. I think Untied is worthy reading for those who are interested in Baxter’s life story.
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This morning, as I was waking up and checking out Facebook, I saw that someone in the Duggar Family News group had shared a few screenshots of Jill Rodrigues and her family singing a song called “Come On Down to the Farm”. I had never heard of the song before, but the author of the post commented that it’s a song about how animals procreate, used as an object lesson as to why gay marriage and homosexuality, in general, ought to be forbidden. I was kind of struck by the photos of Jill and her brood. They were clearly happy, mouths agape as they played and sang the song with much gusto. Here are a few screenshots:
Since they seemed to be so enthusiastic about singing this number, I decided to look it up on YouTube. Below are the lyrics:
If you’d rather hear a slightly more professional version of the musical object lesson, check out this video with Rick Wingerter performing it.
Music can be a very powerful and effective teacher. It can be a lot easier to listen to a lesson delivered in a well-crafted and played song, especially if there’s fun involved. I’m not sure if the Rodrigues kids enjoyed playing this number, although they seem to have been well-trained to follow their mom’s lead. One thing I did notice as Jill was playing is that she sort of casts her eyes sideways at her daughter playing the fiddle. It could be because of the lighting or camera angle, but to me, she actually looks like she’s shooting her a warning glare. And then, at about the 5:30 mark in the video, the smallest girl kicks the family dog, who no doubt was in pain listening to the very enthusiastic, high volume squawking. I think the Rodrigues family is marginally better at playing instruments than singing.
As for the “musical object lesson” they’re teaching, I have a couple of observations. Now, I’ve actually spent a lot of time in barns and on farms. I’ve seen all kinds of interesting sexual behavior involving animals. I’ve seen geldings mount mares, even though they’ve been castrated and shouldn’t be interested in sex. I’ve seen male and female dogs humping each other or dogs that are the same sex as they are, mainly to establish dominance, even if they don’t have sex parts. And since animals lack a concept of marriage, and a lot of them are going to eventually be slaughtered and eaten, anyway, I’m not sure I would take object lessons from observing them on a farm. In any case, I don’t think I would take a lesson from farm animals about human sexuality. Animals aren’t capable of the same level of thinking that humans are… or, at least most humans. I’m kind of having my doubts about Jill Rodrigues.
I wonder what she thinks about people who are infertile? Should they not get married because they aren’t capable of making babies? Is marriage really only about having and raising children? And if people can’t have children, do they serve a purpose, in her view? She’s probably never thought about it… but then, she doesn’t seem to respect that not everyone believes in God, or even just her interpretation of God. In her simple world view, everyone on Earth should be following the Bible according to white Christians from the United States. Forget about any other religious books or traditions. Forget about other cultures and mores. We should just believe in the Christianity Jill and her ilk do. Seems very boring and limited to me. No thanks.
Lately, I’ve noticed I’ve been getting a lot of hits on my posts about Jill’s daughter, Nurie. Nurie, you may recall, is Jill’s eldest daughter. She is married to Nathan Keller, who is Anna Keller Duggar’s brother. That means Josh Duggar is Nurie’s brother-in-law. I remember that Jill Rodrigues was very excited that Nurie was marrying a Keller, and it seemed to be because that meant her family would have a link with the Duggars. I wonder how she feels about that now. I think Jill should sing a song about the evils of child pornography. That would be a more effective musical object lesson than a song about how “wrong” she thinks gay marriage and liberal views are. Moreover, as “unnatural” as Jill thinks homosexuality is, I would submit that viewing child pornography is even more so. Why isn’t she singing a song about her daughter’s brother-in-law’s perversions? If she did that, then I might be more impressed.
Nurie, by the way, is currently pregnant, and is due in the fall sometime. Her unborn baby is going to be a cousin to the Josh Duggar clan. I know this because Jill posted a video about it, probably a few minutes after Nurie conceived. And while I don’t follow her myself, Jill Rodrigues gets a lot of traffic in the Duggar Family News group. That’s really the only reason I know anything about her or her family.
Anyway… I think Jill is wrong about homosexuality and homosexuals. Having read so many tragic stories on the Recovery from Mormonism messageboard about people who have been affected by homosexuals trying to live like heterosexuals, I can’t agree that people should simply pair up with someone of the opposite sex if they aren’t attracted. For most people, marriage is difficult, particularly if there are children involved. I know there are a lot of people who have been taught by their religious customs that they must live a “straight” life, even if they aren’t straight. So they suppress those natural feelings they have, marry someone who doesn’t share their sexual orientation, and proceed to have a marriage that isn’t as loving as it could be.
Some people do marry for practical and business reasons, and I have no issue with that as long as both parties are aware and agree. But I also know that sometimes homosexuals marry heterosexuals because they’re afraid of offending God; they want a family; or they can’t face disappointing their families and the fallout that can come from that. They go through the motions of the marriage. Maybe they’ll be strong enough not to cheat, but they’ll never be truly satisfied. And the spouse might be wondering the whole time what he or she did “wrong”, when the spouse just isn’t that into them.
Some time ago, I wrote a post about Lois Smart. Lois Smart, you might know, is Elizabeth Smart’s mother. She has six children with her ex husband, Ed Smart, who was very visible on television when Elizabeth Smart was abducted from her home at age 14. On the surface, they looked like a picture perfect family. But all along, Ed was hiding a secret. He’s gay. And in the Mormon faith, a woman needs to be sealed to a temple worthy man to take her “through the veil” and into the Celestial Kingdom after they’re both dead. Imagine how Lois felt when she found out her husband of many years, the father of her children, was gay, and hiding that secret for so many years. As a believing Mormon, Lois is now left without a “temple worthy” husband.
While I personally don’t agree with Mormonism or its tenets, I can see how this revelation would be hard for Lois Smart. Because she presumably married her husband thinking they would be together forever. Now that Ed has come out, that dream may be dead. Now, Lois Smart could presumably remarry. She might find a temple worthy LDS man who will marry her and, with her connections, I have no doubt she could get a temple divorce without too much issue. Lois Smart is probably considered Mormon royalty of sorts. But her situation is just one of many facing religious people who don’t believe that people should be with those who interest and attract them.
I think it’s time that religious people evolved. Life is difficult enough as it is. People who are capable of consenting should be allowed to choose the right partner for themselves… or they should be free to choose NO partner, if that’s what makes them happy. Jill Rodrigues and her ilk should focus on their own lives and do away with the musical object lessons that do more harm than good… not to mention hurt the ears of anyone with an appreciation for music. One tip I would pass on to her is that singing and playing louder doesn’t equate to singing and playing better.
Moving on to the next musical object lesson.
This next bit is going to be shorter and a lot vaguer, mainly because I can’t get into specifics at this point in time. But this subject does kind of have to do with musical object lessons and getting meaning from songs. It’s particularly relevant in this situation, because object lessons in the forms of music and/or children’s literature are favorite props used by the people I vaguely allude to in this cryptic passage. Bear with me.
Over breakfast this morning, Bill and I were talking about a major decision he recently made that could possibly rock some worlds. At some point in the following weeks, things could get somewhat dramatic. On the other hand, it’s also possible that they won’t. We’re now at the stage at which we’re watching, waiting, and speculating about what could be coming in the very near future. It’s kind of like dropping a lit match in a forest. What happens next? Will the match quickly burn out and do no harm? Or will there be a raging and destructive forest fire? Time will tell. Either way, changes have already begun.
As we were talking, the song “Wrapped Around Your Finger” by The Police popped into my head. Here’s a video and the lyrics:
You consider me the young apprentice Caught between the Scylla and Charibdes Hypnotized by you if I should linger Staring at the ring around your finger
I have only come here seeking knowledge Things they would not teach me of in college I can see the destiny you sold turned into a shining band of gold
I’ll be wrapped around your finger I’ll be wrapped around your finger
Mephistopheles is not your name I know what you’re up to just the same I will listen hard to your tuition You will see it come to its fruition
I’ll be wrapped around your finger I’ll be wrapped around your finger
Devil and the deep blue sea behind me Vanish in the air you’ll never find me I will turn your face to alabaster When you’ll find your servant is your master
You’ll be wrapped around my finger You’ll be wrapped around my finger You’ll be wrapped around my finger
As Bill was talking about this big decision he made and his subsequent action, I was suddenly reminded of the bridge of “Wrapped Around Your Finger”:
Devil and the deep blue sea behind me Vanish in the air you’ll never find me I will turn your face to alabaster When you’ll find your servant is your master
The decision that Bill made a few days ago is a very long time in coming. There was a time when he really wanted to take action, but felt he couldn’t. He was restrained by doubts, fears, and worrying about potential consequences. Even today, he’s a little worried about the chain of events he’d set into motion and the possible fallout. But then I reminded him that the things that held him back in the past no longer apply. He’s not very accessible anymore… he’s not as vulnerable as he used to be… and pretty soon, someone is likely going to find out that their former servant(s) are now about to “own” them.
Even if that lit match in the forest burns out with no apparent consequences, I know that the reality is, things have forever changed. The roles have switched. The dynamics are different. I picture a face turning to alabaster– pale and frozen– when the realization hits them that they have seen their “tuition come to fruition”, as Sting puts it. Or… perhaps in less elegant terms…
Here’s another reposted book review. This one was written October 18, 2017, and appears as/is.
After some concerted effort last night and an early bedtime, I finally managed to finish Corbin Brodie’s 2016 book, The Gate and The Garden: The Apostate Journals of a Gay Mormon Missionary in Japan. I downloaded this book in 2016, less than a month after it was published. I just got around to reading it this month. Sorry to be so slow, but I have a whole stack of books to be read and I keep finding more.
Although I have read and reviewed quite a few exmo lit books, I had kind of gotten out of the habit. I enjoy a good story about what it’s like to be Mormon, especially when the person is an ex Mormon. There tends to be a lot less testimony sharing in books by the exmos. Corbin Brodie (a pseudonym, as are all the names used in this book) is no longer LDS, but he did serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when he was a young lad. In those days, missions for the guys started when they were nineteen years old; since 2012, the age limit has been set at eighteen. I am not exactly sure when Brodie served in the Sapporo, Japan mission, but it must have been before 1991, since he makes references to the Soviet Union.
Corbin Brodie grew up in Canada. He has a younger brother named Duncan and mentions his mother was a very faithful member of the LDS church. Brodie and his brother were raised to be as faithful as their mother was. Although I get the sense that Brodie wasn’t exactly TBM (true believing Mormon) from the get go, he agreed to served the expected mission. His book mostly consists of journal entries he wrote during his time abroad and while he was at the Missionary Training Center. It also includes a few short stories. I gather that, like me, Brodie has an impulse to write. I’m sure writing has saved his sanity more than a few times, especially when he was living in Japan.
By his own account, Brodie got off to a good start at the training center. He was made a leader during his weeks in Provo, learning Japanese and the missionary lifestyle. He adjusted to life as a missionary and went to Sapporo, where over the course of two years, he went through a series of different companions. Brodie seemed to have an affinity for Japanese and picked it up early. In his journal, he uses a number of Japanese words for church terms. For example, he doesn’t call his companions “Elder” lastname, as Mormon missionaries call each other, Brodie calls them “Choro”, which I gather is the Japanese term. He refers to other church officials and the mission home by their Japanese terms, too. I’m pretty sure that the missionaries in non English speaking areas do use the local terms instead of Elder, Sister, or President. Anyway, I kind of liked that he used those terms because I enjoy picking up foreign words, even if I don’t necessarily enjoy learning other languages.
At 19 years old, Brodie is now living in an environment where he is surrounded by guys his age, some of whom he finds attractive. Given that he’s a Mormon, at his sexual peak, and serving as a missionary, being gay is, to say the least, a special challenge. Although it’s not considered a sin to have “same sex attraction” (as the Mormons put it), it is considered sinful to act on that attraction. So, I can only imagine that as difficult as being a missionary must have been, it must have been even more difficult to be a gay missionary. Add in the fact that Brodie didn’t seem to enjoy Japan that much (he mentions not liking the food), and probably would not have had a whole lot of time to enjoy it even if he did, and you have two challenging years.
Brodie is musical and creative, but listening to music that isn’t church approved is forbidden. Still, he manages to play the piano sometimes. He seems to have some good experiences with Japanese locals, many of whom don’t want to be church members, but are okay with simply being friends. He has some good companions who are friendly and some who are “hardasses” bucking for rank or simply people with whom he has nothing in common. Through it all, though he serves faithfully, Brodie realizes that he doesn’t really believe in Mormonism. It’s getting harder and harder for him to pretend to have a testimony. Finally, during his second year, just four months before he’s scheduled to leave Japan, he has a crisis of sorts. He makes it known that he wants to leave Japan.
Brodie’s leaders do all they can to convince Brodie to stay in country and finish his mission. They tell him if he leaves early, he’ll be on the hook for the $2000 plane ticket. Brodie realizes he’ll have to work a long time to be able to pay off that debt. I actually had to laugh at this, not because it’s funny, but because essentially Brodie was kind of being “trafficked”. It doesn’t sound that different than the women who are brought into foreign countries and forced to work off the price of their plane tickets. Also, while I’m still not sure what years Brodie was serving, $2000 must have been an astronomical amount of money at that time. It’s a lot now.
Brodie also considers his mother, a very faithful TBM who is in school earning her social work degree. He doesn’t want to disappoint her or his brother, who has also put in his papers to go on a mission. Eventually, he is convinced to stay and sent to the mission home to finish out his last four months. The mission home is less onerous, except that Brodie chafes under the rules, including the one that doesn’t allow him to cross the street to buy a candy bar without a companion with him.
Brodie’s story ends rather abruptly. There’s no neat wrap up at the end of his journals, although he does provide an interesting afterword. He’s now living in the United Kingdom and has a son, although he is no longer romantically involved with his son’s mother (she’s a dear friend). He’s still gay. After he returned home from Japan, he took about three months to break it to his mother that he didn’t want to be LDS. And his mother, to her great credit, eventually accepted it, although it was very hard for her.
Although I don’t remember if he mentioned it, I got the idea that Brodie’s mother must have been from Scotland. He writes of going to Edinburgh before the mission and missing Scotland. I can relate to how much he misses Scotland, since it’s one of my favorite places. I also got the sense that even if Brodie hadn’t been homosexual, he would have left Mormonism. It seemed to me that his intellect was too sharp to accept what the church teaches wholesale. He couldn’t make 2+2=5, like some people can.
My one criticism about Brodie’s book is that it’s very long. Although his writing is very good and engaging, it was tough going getting through this book, particularly with the inclusion of the short stories. I realize that he basically published his journals as he wrote them, but personally, I think this book would have been stronger if it had been abridged somewhat. The short stories were of good quality, but they kind of took away the flow of Brodie’s missionary story. I love a good short story, but I don’t like to be distracted when I’m reading. I felt the fiction pieces were somewhat a distraction.
I do think this book would be well-received by ex Mormons, especially male homosexuals who have served missions. I think they will be especially able to relate to Brodie’s experiences. I was happy to read that as hard as the mission was, it didn’t seem like the whole thing was a waste of time. He did seem to come away from the experience with friends, some of whom I hope remained friends after he left the church.
Anyway, if I were going to assign a rating, I think I’d give The Gate and The Garden: The Apostate Journals of a Gay Mormon Missionary in Japan a solid four stars out of five. It’s well worth reading if you’re interested.
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And finally, one more repost for today… another Epinions review from March 2012, posted as/is.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS church) has been in the news a lot lately, partly because Mitt Romney, a prominent Mormon, is hoping to become the next President of the United States. I have a keen interest in Mormonism, mainly because my husband, Bill, is a former member of the church. I spend a lot of time on a Web site called Recovery from Mormonism (www.exmormon.org), which is a lively discussion forum populated by people interested in or affected by Mormonism.
Many people on the Recovery from Mormonism site are former members of the church, but there are also participants there who still attend and some people, like me, who have never been LDS, but have somehow been affected by or interested in the church. Having spent approximately nine years hanging out on that Web site, I have read many stories of people who were raised Mormon. One issue that consistently comes up among ex-Mormons is homosexuality.
Officially, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints takes a dim view of homosexuality. In order to remain in good standing, church members who experience SSA– that is, same sex attraction– are required not to act on their homosexual feelings. In many cases, members of the LDS church who are gay are encouraged to get “therapy” in an attempt to overcome their homosexual feelings. Being gay and Mormon is a very big deal among the LDS faithful. Mormons believe that marriage is only valid between a man and a woman and only married people can get to the Celestial Kingdom, which is the highest level of Heaven. Every faithful member of the LDS church wants to go to the Celestial Kingdom when they die.
It was on the Recovery from Mormonism Web site that I first read about Joseph Dallin’s book, Perfect: The Journey of a Gay Mormon (2009). Since I love true stories and have a special interest in Mormonism, I decided to read it myself.
Joseph Dallin’s story
Born in 1975, Joseph Dallin grew up in Utah, the eldest of his Mormon parents’ six children. He was a very faithful member of the LDS church and had always been obedient to the church’s tenets. From the time he was a young boy, Joseph Dallin expected to go on a mission for the church, get married, have children, and live a happy, church-approved lifestyle.
But then Dallin turned thirteen, a difficult age under the best of circumstances. As Dallin entered puberty, he noticed that he was attracted to males. Knowing his church’s rigid stance on homosexuality, Joseph Dallin realized that his feelings were inconsistent with the church’s teachings. He immediately began to fight against those feelings that he had been taught were so inappropriate.
At age 18, Joseph Dallin went to college at Utah State University, where he met a lovely young woman named Emily. Joseph and Emily bonded and became very close friends. After their freshman year at Utah State, Joseph went off to Houston, Texas to serve a two year proseletyzing mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The whole time he was gone, Emily and Joseph wrote to each other. Emily clearly had set her sights on marrying Joseph when he came home. Then, the two of them would transfer to Brigham Young University and begin a happy life together. But while the transfer to BYU happened, the marriage could not. Joseph Dallin was gay and had too much integrity to marry a woman he could never love as a wife.
Joseph Dallin became embroiled in a battle between the man his church expected him to be and the man he actually was. Dallin’s internal struggle almost led to his suicide as he tried to reconcile his forbidden attraction to men with the church’s strict teachings against homosexuality.
I think Perfect is definitely worthwhile reading, particularly for those who have found themselves in Joseph Dallin’s situation. His writing is very personal and thoughtful. I think this book would be best received by people who already know something about Mormonism, although those who are very faithful to the church may be offended by it. Dallin does not mince words as he describes his sexuality. His writing becomes very vivid when he relates the struggle he had between his attraction to men and his desire to stay faithful to his beliefs.
Dallin writes that he began to have doubts about the church during his mission and includes some quoted material that may be offensive to some readers, particularly those who are LDS. On the other hand, those who have thoroughly studied the church’s history will probably not be surprised or offended by Dallin’s revelations.
Actually, as a non-member, the only thing that shocked me was that Dallin made his discoveries as a missionary. Apparently, he was never taught about the church’s racist past and, in the course of learning more about his faith so that he could be a better missionary, Dallin discovered some disturbing quotes by Brigham Young in the Journal of Discourses, a volume with which Dallin had previously been unfamiliar. He writes on page 111:
“… we were teaching the missionary lessons to a black woman who was preparing for baptism. I couldn’t help but wonder what she would think of this statement:”
Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so.
Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 10
It is a missionary’s job to convert new members. However, in reading about Dallin’s startling revelations about his church’s history, it occurred to me that missionaries are selling something they may not know that much about. And becoming a Mormon often requires major lifestyle changes and sacrifices that can actually tear apart families.
Dallin explains that the part of Mormon history concerning race was never discussed as he was growing up in the church or during his training. He had discovered old doctrine that had been swept under the rug and whitewashed with more current doctrine by newer church prophets. Suddenly, everything Dallin thought he knew about his faith was fragmented by new information. He discovered he had been taught to rely on his feelings rather than logic or factual information. Naturally, the new information led to Dallin’s feelings of betrayal and bitterness, which helped change his perspective of his church.
Dallin’s story includes a lot of perspectives from others. He uses sub-headings to relay his anecdotes and different fonts for letters sent and received during his mission. I’m not sure the different fonts were entirely necessary. I actually found them somewhat distracting, especially since he uses fonts that are somewhat unorthodox. For example, letters from Emily are printed in a very flowing, feminine font. Dallin’s letters are presented in a font that looks like handwriting rather than a more conventional type.
As a final note, I was impressed by the way Dallin’s parents handled his “coming out” to them. While their reaction wasn’t completely without drama, ultimately, they treated their son with a lot of love and respect. Their loving reaction serves as a fine example to other religious families dealing with a homosexual son or daughter.
I would recommend Perfect to anyone who likes true stories, especially if they are empathetic to homosexuals who are struggling with religion. This may be good reading for parents who are struggling with a child’s homosexuality, particularly in relation to the Mormon faith. I think this is an especially good book for gay Mormons in search of some reassurance that the struggle between faith and sexuality doesn’t have to lead to suicide or other drastic measures. Perfect is ultimately a very positive book that may serve as a source of hope to others in similar situations.
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Here’s another reposted Epinions review from May 2008 that I’m trying to save from obscurity. I’m posting it as/is.
You never know what will happen in a relationship, even when it seems to be made in heaven… In her 1986 book Goodbye, I Love You, Carol Lynn Pearson explains what it was like for her to be Mormon and married to a gay man.
When she met her husband, Gerald Pearson, for the first time, Carol Lynn Pearson thought he “shone”. In warm, glowing terms, Pearson describes the man whose charisma had captivated her at a party she attended back in the spring of 1965. Gerald had been telling a funny story about his days as an Army private, posted at Fort Ord. Carol Lynn Pearson enjoyed the story, and yet she was horrified that the Army had deigned to turn this gentle soul into a killer. Later, Carol Lynn had a conversation with Gerald and discovered that he’d just returned from a two year LDS church mission in Australia and was preparing to finish his college education at Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo, Utah. Pearson had already earned two degrees at BYU, both in drama. The two had a lot in common besides theatre and religion. As good Mormons, they also felt the pressure to be married, especially since neither of them was getting any younger. They became friends and started dating.
Gerald continued to impress Carol Lynn with his sense of fun, creativity, and sensitivity. She fell in love with him. He seemed to return her affections. One night, they went on a date to the movies and Gerald’s roommate, Paul, drove. Carol Lynn thought they were going to double date, but Paul never did pick up a female companion. Gerald sat between Paul and Carol Lynn and seemed to enjoy the film. Paul pouted. Gerald told Carol Lynn that he wished they would fall in love and have many children. Not long after that, Gerald proposed marriage. A couple of months after Carol Lynn accepted Gerald’s marriage proposal, he revealed that he’d had relationships with other men. In fact, his roommate Paul was actually his lover. But Gerald promised that he wasn’t gay and he swore that he would never have relations with a man again. He told Carol Lynn that he wanted to have a marriage and a family with a woman. His homosexuality “problem” was over and in the past.
Though Carol Lynn was troubled about Gerald’s revelation, she trusted him and she trusted herself. She also trusted her church, which took the position that everyone was created heterosexual. Though people sometimes got “off track”, homosexuality was a problem that could be solved with enough faith and repentance. Carol Lynn, who by that time had been affectionately nicknamed Blossom by the glowing man in her life, decided to get married.
Carol Lynn and Gerald got married in 1966 and, for awhile, they were very happy. They had four children together and appeared to be devout Mormons who did everything right. Carol Lynn became a successful writer who published books of poetry and plays. Gerald was a good husband and a fine father. He had a talent for the culinary arts and music. But as the years went on, Gerald became restless. He started talking more about his homosexuality, reading the works of Walt Whitman and attending plays about homosexuals. The couple began to have arguments about how people should love each other and found that they could not come to a consensus.
Not long after that, Carol Lynn found out from third party that Gerald was unfaithful to her, having relationships with men. Neither Gerald nor Carol Lynn wanted to split up, so they tried to stay married. But the couple soon found that their differences eventually and inevitably pushed them apart. Twelve years after their temple marriage and the births of their four children, Carol Lynn and Gerald decided to get a divorce.
Even after the divorce, Carol Lynn and Gerald remained great friends. Carol Lynn met Gerald’s boyfriends. Gerald stayed in contact with his children. And when he eventually contracted AIDS in the early 1980s, Gerald came home to die with his friend and ex wife and their children by his side.
I’m a sucker for a good memoir and Carol Lynn Pearson has written an eloquent one in Goodbye, I Love You (originally published in 1986). As I read this book, I was amazed by how graceful, understanding, and kind she was to her former husband. They truly did love each other. Unfortunately, they could not be married to each other. Carol Lynn Pearson was monogamous and could not share her husband’s love with anyone. And Gerald Pearson loved his ex wife, but he could not share the bond with her that he could have with a man. Naturally, because they were Mormons, their church would not approve of the lifestyle Gerald led.
With heartbreaking honesty, Carol Lynn Pearson describes what it was like to be in her situation. Gerald had contracted AIDS when it was still a very new disease. Carol Lynn explains what it was like to have to prepare their children for their father’s inevitable death. They had figured out that he was gay and accepted it. It hadn’t occurred to them not to love their father, despite his desire for men.
I will warn readers that there are a couple of passages in this book that may be shocking. For instance, Carol Lynn writes about meeting one of Gerald’s friends who had tried to get treated for his homosexuality at a clinic run by BYU. According to Pearson, in the early days of the clinic, homosexual men were literally given shock treatment to try to cure them of their sexual feelings toward other men. Although I had heard about this program before I read the book, I was still somewhat horrified as I read about it. This same friend related a story to Carol Lynn about a young man who had also gone through the shock therapy and ended up killing himself because the treatments did not work. Gerald agreed that he had known many men who had committed suicide because they couldn’t stop being gay. The men had been led to believe by church authorities that they were better off dead than homosexual.
While I can understand on some level that perhaps the church authorities meant well when they advised their homosexual members to repent and “get therapy”, I am also disgusted by it. It makes me sad to think about how many promising lives were snuffed out by suicide because these men had been expected to change their feelings and they found they could not change, no matter how much they prayed, fasted, and repented.
Aside from that horrifying aspect of the book, I found Goodbye, I Love You to be very educational. I also felt a lot of empathy toward Gerald, Carol Lynn, and their children. Because of their belief system, Carol Lynn and Gerald felt they had to get married. I’m sure Gerald really did think he could overcome his desire to be with men. I’m sure he wanted to. When one of the children dramatically declared that she was through with boys and wanted to be a lesbian nun, Gerald told her that if she could be straight, she should. He told her that being gay was difficult and that no one would ever choose it.
Likewise, I’m sure Carol Lynn felt cheated and betrayed. She believed Gerald when he told her he could change. They were sealed in the temple for time and all eternity. When it all fell apart, she was left with their four children and no marriage. As a true believing Mormon, this was not a small issue for Carol Lynn Pearson. Fortunately, people in the church were understanding about the divorce and no one seemed to judge her for it. But she had feared they would.
In any case, Goodbye, I Love You is not a happy tale, but it is one of great beauty, honesty, and tragedy. I admire the way Carol Lynn and Gerald were able to be friends after their divorce. I especially admire Carol Lynn’s ability to come to terms with Gerald’s homosexuality and present their story with such love and sensitivity. I’m pleased to recommend Goodbye, I Love You and give it five stars.
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