Saturday, November 17, 2012

The post where I meet Josh and Lolly Weed.

Ok, so in full disclosure, this is a very long post. So if you just want the cliff-notes version it goes like this:

"So I went to this SSA conference and met Josh and Lolly Weed. They are famous. It was awesome. 
I hugged them way too many times for being someone they've never met and don't know. 
Apparently I have no concept of people's personal bubbles. 
Still, they were the nicest people ever and we had a moment. 
The End." 
~~~

Ok, so here is the actual post in its entirety. I realized after writing it all out how ridiculously long it was, so to break things up I made it into three sections. I also randomly included some unicorn pictures. Enjoy.

PART ONE: An explanation of my possibly creepy obsession with Josh Weed. 

So. Josh Weed.
Like about a billion other people, I found out about Josh Weed last June when his coming out post went viral all over the internet. I have no idea how many of my friends posted it, or who exactly I saw it from, but I read the whole post twice in one sitting and immediately re-posted it. I told my husband about it when I got home. I discussed it with friends and siblings. I subscribed to his blog, and have been following it and frequently commenting on it since. I really don't even know how to talk about how much this blog influenced my life. Josh and Lolly's insane courage, their stalwart commitment to each other AND to the gospel was the best example of true love and faith I'd ever known of. Their determination to share their "taboo" story with the world despite the personal consequences that might ensue from people on BOTH ends of the spectrum was overwhelming in its inspiration. I have never felt more love for a pair of total strangers. These people were AMAZING.

I stole this picture from the internet.
But I'm pretty sure it's ok since I met Josh today and we are friends now. 

But the biggest inspiration factor, in my opinion, was that Josh and Lolly had found a way to be both true to themselves AND be in the church. Josh was Mormon. Josh was also gay. It was ok.
It was the first real genuine example of someone in the church coming out and saying, "This is who I am, and I am totally okay with that. This is my life. This is real." Someone straight up (haha...straight) saying that they didn't feel ashamed. That they KNEW God loved them. That they felt they had a place and were even included in a religion that is so often mistaken for being "anti-gay". A person and a couple who brought some clarity and reconciliation to the idea that you can be gay AND a Mormon.

***Quick clarification, Josh does NOT endorse the idea of "reparative therapy" nor does he ever suggest that living a heterosexual lifestyle is a "cure" for gayness or that it can work for everyone. Just thought I'd quickly clarify that.***

For several years now I'd been struggling with my own frustrations and misunderstandings with the churches take on homosexuality. I have several close friends and family members who are gay, and through open conversations with them I was of the firm belief/knowledge that being gay is NOT a "choice". Yet so many devoted church members were just as oppositely opinionated. I couldn't understand how a church that proclaims to be for everyone could be so excluding. It'd been a huge faith-buster.

Josh's initial post and many that followed were the first real feelings of hope I'd felt concerning The Church of Jesus Christ in well over a year. It cut through threads of cynical thinking and made me realize that if people like Josh and Lolly Weed are part of the church it can't be as mean and exclusive as I was making it out to be.  Maybe, somehow, with the right mind-set of acceptance and understanding, the church really can include everyone. I became a little bit of a blog stalker, clinging to every experience the Weed family began to have now that they were internet famous. :) I felt like their journey was testing the water for everyone else that wanted to open the discussion on this subject. I prayed so hard for their family!

So, the point is, their post kinda changed my life.

UNICORN!!
Sooo....when I found out that they were both coming to PROVO UTAH to speak at the new Convention Center that is quite literally FIVE BLOCKS from my house, I was giddy with excitement over the idea of meeting them. :)

PART TWO: I go to a conference about Same Sex Attraction...by myself. 

Confession #1: Meeting them was the sole purpose of me going to this Conference. *This is the part where I openly admit to being a total creeper.
Confession #2: The conference was excellent and even if I hadn't met them I would have been glad I was in attendance.
Confession #3: I was really cold the whole time so I was wearing gloves which hid my wedding ring.
Confession #4: I was not upset that both a girl and a guy flirted with me.
Confession #5: The girl was much cuter.

The Conference was called, "Reconciling Faith and Feelings" and brought together a panel of Mormon Therapists that widely varied in their opinions about Same Sex Attraction.
The atmosphere at the beginning was a bit tense, as it was clear which therapists believed in homosexuality being a choice that could be changed, and which believed it was not. There were many varied life experiences represented as well. A few therapists, like Josh, were gay or had "struggled with SSA". (It's my blog, I can put them in quotations if I want to!) Fortunately no one was mean or cruel in their comments, and it wasn't long before there was this magical shift onto common ground. Suddenly everyone realized they all had the same goal in mind: To let Latter Day Saints know that there is a place for them in the church no matter who/what they identify as. Getting to that place can mean different things for different people, but they all agreed it is possible.

UNICORN!
Ok, for the sake of getting to the point of this post (which is, of course, how I met Josh and Lolly in real life) I will try and paraphrase the rest of the conference with the notes I took, which are mostly just my favorite quotes. 
Again, although I was primarily there to meet the Weeds, I was extremely impressed by the dialogue that ensued when a bunch of open-minded LDS people were able to put aside preconceived notions and come together in a mostly unbiased discussion about how to show more love an acceptance to members of the church who are gay. This is such an important conversation to be having. I am happy to be sharing it now with you. 

"The common thread: We each proclaim that people have choices. 
One of those choices is to live the gospel of Jesus Christ and do so joyfully." 

"Experiencing Same Sex Attraction is NOT a worthiness issue."

What does "change" mean to you?

"'Change' is individual, based on what the individual wants and whether or not they accept a higher power." ~This is not to mean that "change" for everyone means a change in sexual orientation. Indeed most of the therapists disagreed strongly that that is even possible. Change can mean a change of heart. A change in your spiritual connection with Heavenly Father. A change from what you want for yourself to what He may have in mind for you in your life. The word 'change' is not limited to one path.

"Change can be unpacked in so many ways. Either you are in the drivers seat or your emotions are."

"What does it mean to be true to yourself? What are your values? ...On a philosophical note, you have to live your values in order to be true to yourself." ~This was a sentence used to explain how many gay Mormon men have found peace in living a 'heterosexual' lifestyle with a female wife.

"Therapy is about change. People go to therapy because they want to change something about their life. 100% change of sexual orientation, in my experience, is not possible. But when you can accept that, then you can begin to make the changes that REALLY matter; the changes that lead you to real joy."

"'Can I change?' Is really a question of, 'Can I live a meaningful life and be happy?'"

How do you go about "coming out" to someone? Especially someone who you may want to marry?

"If you don't feel comfortable telling someone, they are probably not that good of a friend/person/relationship."

"Telling someone is not a one-liner." ~It should be a long, open, honest discussion that is continuous. That is the only way to make a successful Mixed Orientation marriage or relationship.

"Share it with people who will love you."

"It is empowering that person to accept you for all that you are."

What is your response to people who call you [disgusting things]. (I don't feel comfortable posting the words which were actually used in this audience question.)

"Forgive good people who say really stupid things." :)

"Part of gospel living is to learn forgiveness, patience and charity."

"Healthy people don't attack. It is not the church that attacks, it is uninformed, unhealthy people."

It was an amazingly open discussion. After the initial panel and a short intermission, spouses and others joined the discussion on stage for an open forum featuring audience questions. Lolly was definitely the star of the day with her candid and faith-filled responses. She is one impressive wife. :)

Rainbow unicorn to the rescue!
My favorite highlights of the conference, besides the quotes I shared, were 1. Josh and Lolly on stage together. They are just the most friggin' adorable couple ever! They were always holding hands, or Josh had his arm around her...their genuine love and concern for each other surely made the whole room jealous! haha. 
2. The awesome one-liners from Ty Mansfeld, *drinks some water* "I feel like a new man!" *Lowers voice* "CHANGE!" 
3. The guy who had just rejoined the church and this was his first time going public. 
4. The wives who didn't leave or give up on their husbands when they found out. 
5. The lone lesbian on the panel who represented for the ladies!
and 6. The standing ovation the audience gave them at the end, and seeing Lolly wipe away tears when the audience clapped for them. So sweet! 

You guys totally get why I was excited to meet this couple right?

PART THREE: Where in REAL LIFE I meet Josh and Lolly Weed.

Ok, so despite how I am coming off in this entire post, I am NOT one of those "fan" people who wants to go talk to guest speakers at the end, or go to a concert and stalk the band after, or...wait at the stage door after a Broadway play...Ok. Fine. I did that twice. But I lived in New York for a year and a half and saw dozens of shows, so that should prove I'm not one of "those" people.
But I was determined to actually meet Josh and Lolly. You know, because that was the whole point of me going to this. And I brought my camera. Because I wanted a picture. Because I'm creepy. And also because then I could prove I met them, because they are famous.
When the conference finally wrapped up I tried to politely excuse myself from the guy who was trying to figure out if I was gay or not, and made my way up to the side of the stage where a little pack had formed around Josh and Lolly. Suddenly I realized what a bad idea it had been to wear my coat and gloves the whole time because my hands were suddenly super sweaty.

*Yes, I realize how much of a creepy stalker I sound like right now. Sorry about that. Here is another unicorn so you can stop thinking about how weird I am.

See? I'm a totally normal person who posts pictures like this.
Stop judging.
K, so I made my way up to their little crowd and tried to not look as awkward as I felt, which was super awkward, because this was really out of my comfort zone. I REALLY wanted to meet them and tell them how awesome I think they are. So I kept standing there until the guy talking to Josh walked away and then I said the first thing that popped into my head, which sadly was, "Can I meet you?" 
haha. I am awesome at having normal conversations with people. 

Good news for me, Josh and Lolly Weed are just as awesome in person as they seem on their blog. 
And then the most amazing thing that has ever happened maybe EVER, happened. 

Josh Weed knew who I was. 

..........................................

Just let it sink in. This is the best part.

..........................................

We shook hands and he said, "What's your name?" and I said, "Rebekah" and then he kinda looked at me funny and said, "Wait, what's your last name?" and when I said Lindsley he was like, "I know you! I know exactly who you are!" He then proceeded to tell me that several months ago, during the beginning of all the madness after the 'coming out' post that I had made a comment on his blog that had so impressed and touched him that he read it to Lolly, and it had helped them to know that by sharing their story they were doing the right thing and that they should continue right on doing it.

I had helped him.

Then the people talking to Lolly walked away, and JOSH WEED introduced ME to his gorgeous wife Lolly, and when she realized who I was she actually teared up trying to tell me how much my little comment had meant to them. And then I started crying, and we hugged and...
It was an amazing and incredible moment.

~~~"THE CIIIIIIIRRRRRCLE OF LIIIIIFE!!!"~~~

So, we totally had this awesome spiritual moment, and I'm pretty sure I hugged them both about 4 times, and because it was so open and REAL, I went ahead and told them how they'd changed my life, as cheesy as that sounded, and I'm pretty sure I hugged them again. Like 9 times.

Then, because it was all just happening, I asked if I could get a picture with them, and then THIS HAPPENED.

The example of these two amazing people totally strengthened my testimony.
True Story. So grateful!
I kept saying that I was sorry for being such a creeper. I KNOW they do these conferences all the time, and I'm sure I'm not the first blog-stalker they've had come say Hi to them, but I was just so out of my comfort zone I couldn't stop babbling about being a creeper, but then I thought it would be super funny to actually do a creeperesque (I just invented that word to describe myself in this situation) photo. So I asked them if we could stage one, and they are AWESOME, so then this happened: 

This would be a lot funnier if I actually looked REALLY creepy. Next time guys, next time. >:) 
So after photos happened I think I hugged them like 6 more times, and then I was like, "Ok bye!" and they were awesome and told me to keep in touch. Because we're friends now.

As I walked out of the Conference Center I realized that my face actually hurt from grinning and that I was shaking like crazy from nerves. Haha. I am SO glad that I woke up at 7:30 in the morning on a Saturday to come to this conference! I am SO glad that I faced my fear of being awkward and got to meet these two amazingly beautiful people. I am so grateful that people like Josh and Lolly Weed exist to make the world a better place one blog post at a time. Thanks Weeds. :)

~Also, a special thanks to my amazingly supportive husband, Steven, who wanted to sleep in, but was so excited for me when I got home. He let me talk about it all day, and then proof-read this post to make sure everything came out right. He is the best! I love you honey. :) ~

9 comments:

  1. I will have to start reading this blog because I have been really struggling with this exact aspect of the church and it has been giving me a lot of negative feelings. Thanks so much for this post, I'm so glad I'm not alone in having those feelings about the church and the LGBTQ community.

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  2. Coolest thing EVER! That's amazing that they knew you! What a great experience. Yay for open discussion and understanding!

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  3. This is awesome. Awesome awesome awesome. I am sad I missed that conference. I love that you "stalked" them, haha. And I loved the magical sightings of the unicorns.

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  4. Ahem. Your blog post made me laugh out loud. Numerous times. And I'm busy writing a post in which your pictures and a link to this post will be shared with the world!

    ***The Ciiiiiircle of Liiiife*****

    (See that? See how funny you are? You are so funny that I just stole a joke you made three paragraphs ago because it was so perfect.)

    Thanks so much for coming to meet us. You helped make the day really, really special for us. Fo realz. You are awesome.

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  5. Thank you Josh for posting the link to this blog post, and for being you, and thank you Rebekah for writing it and being YOU. I'm very moved. And jealous. In my religion (Judaism) we have managed to have all these wings of people who disagree about what the "correct" amount of observance is. So some branches of Judaism are accepting of gays and lesbians and some are deeply intolerant. And I think that as long as there are these more tolerant branches, it sort of gives impetus to the less tolerant ones to hold up the "Flag of Intolerance" as a symbol of steadfastness and faithfulness to the most correct principles of our religion. The idea of a very serious religious group (like LDS) holding discussions on this in this way gives me waves of jealousy, with maybe a touch of hope. I mean, that it is possible even if you have to wait a long time.

    I also found out about Josh from that viral coming out post and am so grateful I did, and it inspired me in the exact same way that this post does and I'm incredibly grateful to you for writing it and for making me feel like there are kindred spirits out there who are, nonetheless, very, VERY different from me. Which is good. So - thank you!

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  6. Rebekah, it touches my heart but does not surprise me to read in your post and then in the comments here that I am not alone in my discomfort over the position of the Church on homosexuality and--more troubling--the mean-spirited attitude I often encounter in other members. I have struggled a long time over this, and it has contributed to my distance from the church, but there is a part of me that feels like it's important for me to hang in there, not to cede all the ground. Who can speak up for them or stand by them, if everyone who loves a gay friend or family member has moved away from the church? And who will support the leaders as they take steps toward greater acknowledgment and understanding, if the only people "in the room" are afraid, or hostile, or simply uninformed?
    I have so much respect and admiration for Josh and Lolly because as they share their story they are not allowing their love and life together to be used as a weapon toward those whose paths are different. There are so many people in this world who desire to tell others how to live a Christian life--or an observant life, as noted in Judith's post. Far fewer do what the Weeds are doing, which is to live a life of love and allow us to watch them.
    Thanks for this post, and thanks to Josh for pointing me in your direction on his blog.

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  7. Love this post, Rebekah! and I love you! I remember you telling me about meeting them, but reading it about it made me tear up a little. Sounds like an amazing conference, too. So good to spread the word that although people may not have a choice in their sexual orientation, they still have so many choices in finding happiness, even within the gospel! Plus your post as always is hilarious and personal.

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    1. Thanks Jessica. :) I am so grateful to have met them and to become a voice of love and acceptance within the church for the LGBT community.

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