Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Dan Cathy wishes to shed anti-gay image of Chick-fil-a.

Yes, I get most people are over this subject. Chick-fil-a was my first place of employment and I actually enjoyed my time there. Because of my experience there, the "CFA Appreciation Day" and boycott are subjects I like to keep tabs on.

The intent of this post is not to tell people it is okay to eat Chick-fil-a now. I have many friends who still refuse to go there and I completely support the decision of an individual to not spend his money there. The reason for me sharing this article is to show how effective boycotts can be, despite the flaws and mudslinging the CFA boycott brought forth.

Dan Cathy, the CEO of CFA, recently stated:
"Every leader goes through different phases of maturity, growth and development and it helps by (recognizing) the mistakes that you make. And you learn from those mistakes. If not, you’re just a fool. I’m thankful that I lived through it and I learned a lot from it. Probably the elements that were stressful for me most is from our internal staff and from operators and how this may be affecting them. The bottom line is we have a responsibility here to keep the whole of the organization in mind and it has to take precedence over the personal expression and opinion on social issues."

Yes, Chick-fil-a had record breaking sales in 2012 because of the love people gave thanks to Mike Huckabee and Dan Cathy's statements. Considering the customer base CFA has, this should be of no surprise. But Dan Cathy and CFA's PR department knows that this image of being anti-gay is not good for business in the long run. Sure, they will always do well in the Bible Belt and other socially conservative areas, but CFA wants to expand business. In order to do so, they will have to shed the image they fairly earned in 2012. Of course, CFA would have never had this image of being anti-gay had a boycott never taken place.

On top of that, CFA has cut donations to anti-gay organizations by 99.2% in 2012 according to ThinkProgress. The initial CFA boycott started in 2011.

#LGBT #chickfila #CFA #grapefruitjuice

(Side note: I decided to sync my blog with my Google+ account. Boldings, hashtags, and style of postings are done in an effort to make my thoughts easier to share with the Google+ community. We will see how this works :-) )

Monday, September 23, 2013

Family Letter 3rd Quarter 2013

Hello from Houston!

Work has been going well for me (Evan). I have just passed my one year anniversary as an application developer at the University of Houston and recently had a big project of mine successfully go into production, with another one that will hit testing soon. One of the things I love about the work environment here is that I don't necessarily need to work through a middle man in order to communicate with the customer. For the last project, I was able to directly speak with the customer during testing, which helped me understand exactly what she wanted out of the project. My manager has done an excellent job in providing guidance over the last year, which I am very grateful for. Brian has had his ups and downs at MD Anderson, but he says management has expressed great appreciation for his hard work. Fortunately, work has calmed down for him after a very busy summer.

We spent a lot of time with the boys this summer up until they started school again. Brian was able to work from home and take some vacation time so we could keep them at our house for an entire week. They love swimming in the pool, playing with Shadow, and playing video games. We also were able to have Brian's mom stay home with the kids during the few days Brian had to work from home, which was nice. The boys like school so far. Jordan started 5th grade and Tim started 3rd grade. I first met them when they had just finished 2nd grade and kindergarten. They are getting old too fast! They recently signed up for the Scouts and will also soon be participating in Little League, once again. They are good kids and we are so happy that we are able to be involved in their lives.

We have been continuing our home improvement projects. We have painted some rooms and had some of our windows that run along the front of the house tinted. We also noticed that the foundation issues in our house have been getting worse, which is our next project to address. Here's hoping that this fix won't break the bank!

Last week, while Brian was visiting his step sister and her family in Austin, I made a trip up to Salt Lake City to visit with Demaree, Marco, and Elliot, and to also attend the Affirmation conference. It was great catching up with them and being able to see their house. In between sessions of the conference, I was also able to visit with my old co-workers from San Angelo, who had moved to SLC.

The Affirmation conference was incredibly uplifting for me and I felt like it was something I really needed spiritually. Steve Young and his wife, Barb, were the keynote speakers. Along with the Youngs, I was able to listen to Carol Lynn Pearson, Judy Finch, and Benji Schwimmer, as well as participate in an incredible testimony meeting. They also had several group workshops during the weekend ranging in topics like "Growing Up LGBT and Mormon in America" and "Restoring Your Relationship with the Church." I was very impressed at the number of supportive family members there. Being able to talk to several parents who were just addressing this issue in their family for the first time gave me hope that more and more members of our faith are learning to open their hearts on this issue. If anyone is interested, you can watch several portions of the conference on Affirmation's Youtube channel.

Anyways, it has been great catching up with everyone! Hopefully we will be able to see several of you during the holidays this year. 

Evan and Brian

Monday, July 15, 2013

My Attempt to Donate Blood

Last week, I participated in the National Gay Blood Drive.

Despite my parents almost regularly participating, I have never donated blood. Originally, I did not donate due to thought of blood being drained out of my body and my fear of passing out. But eventually, I became no longer eligible to donate due to being considered a risk since I would be an MSM donor (men who have sex with men).

So I headed to Houston's Med Center during my lunch break, took a rapid HIV test, attempted to donate blood at the blood center with my HIV- result in hand, and was denied. The local CBS affiliate, KHOU, happened to be there and wanted to interview me about my experience (video in the link):
HOUSTON -- Opponents of a federal ban on blood donations by men who have sex with men are demonstrating around the country.
Evan Clayson believes donating blood is an “important cause.”
“I grew up in a family where my parents would donate regularly,” Clayson said.
However, Clayson is unable to donate blood because of his sexual orientation.
The FDA said its policy is "based on the documented increased risk of certain transfusion transmissible infections, such as HIV, associated with male-to-male sex."
“All we can do is tell the donors that those are the regulations,” said Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center employee Dr. Beth Hartwell. "It's what we have to follow."
Clayson disagrees with the ban.
"There is an obvious discrimination within their regulations," Clayson said.
In the national gay blood drive, potential donors who are gay men are tested for HIV first. Their test results then forwarded to the FDA hoping to show how many more donors could be out there.
The goal is to show the U.S. Food and Drug Administration how much donor blood could be added to the nation's supply if gay and bisexual men could donate. That population faces an indefinite or lifetime deferral on blood donations.
I understand why the FDA put the ban on gay men in the first place. Not much was known about AIDS and HIV when the epidemic hit its stride. But as people suffered, medical science has progressed enough to the point where we know a lot about the disease. Every blood transfusion is screened. People can be tested for HIV. And the risk of someone unknowingly donating HIV+ blood is extremely slim. I hold the belief that this ban should be based on risky sexual behavior in general. Considering the fact that the American Red Cross is often short of blood, the FDA needs to allow as many eligible people to donate as possible.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Wedding, My Family, and Facebook

When people say to not take social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ seriously, I take the stance that they are very much behind the times. Social networking is having a huge impact on how we interact with each other, how news is shared, and how change can be made. I am relatively passionate on this stance. These are powerful tools and what is being shared by the users on these sites should not be ignored.

Thus, I was thrilled to be asked by the Facebook people to share my story about how Facebook played a part in our wedding. I am also happy about the fact that the article couldn't have been published at a better time. So if you want to read my super condensed, slightly edited, 1000-word story on Prop 8, the wedding, my family, and Facebook, check it out at Facebook Stories.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Family Letter 2nd Quarter 2013

Hello everyone!

Not a lot has happened since I last wrote.

Work seems to be going well for me. They have given me some larger projects that have kept me very busy, so I haven't had a lot of time for extracurricular things. Brian, too, has been busy with work. He has been a lead for several projects, which has been stressful for him. He is considering getting into more of a development role at work since he believes he might enjoy that more.

In April we decided to adopt a dog named Shadow from the local humane society. He is a black retriever mix and will be one year old next month, so he has a bit of puppy still left in him. So far, he has chewed up my pillow, the couch pillows, some socks, a part of a comforter, and he put a hole in the couch. Oh, he also has killed some of our newly sodded grass. But he also gives us lots of love and he is very fun to play with.

Over Memorial Day weekend, I spent some time in San Angelo so I could see some family and friends. I was also able to visit my new niece, who is a total cutie!

The boys finished both school and Little League, which means summer time is here! Last week, we decided to take them to Dallas, which was new to them. We spent a few days at Six Flags, had dinner at Medieval Times, and checked out the Perot Museum.  They have a busy summer that will consist of baseball camps, museum camps, and a trip or two to Schlitterbahn. Summer time is also great because we can have them over and not have to worry about getting homework done!

Anyways, I think that's it for us. It's been great hearing from everyone so far. Take care!


Thursday, May 30, 2013

I Spoke Too Soon

We were just about to leave for a Little League game yesterday when we heard a knock on the door. I peaked through the side window and saw two men in white shirts, ties, and dark pants. It was them. It was the missionaries from my last post I thought would probably never actually come and visit. They drove out to our neighborhood and stopped by our house unexpectedly.

I told Brian I would get the door because it was the Mormon missionaries. I took a breath and opened the door. "Hello! How are you guys!"

I stared at two guys. One looked to be your typical young Mormon straight from the motherland in Utah: short blondish-brown hair, tall, pale skin, thin, perfect white teeth, and blue eyes (like me, but more of that Utah glow I suppose). He seemed nervous and I could tell he must have been a greenie. The other, obviously the senior companion, was a bigger guy, black, shorter than his companion, and probably not from Utah.

"Hi! Is there an Evan here?"

It wasn't a scripted response. I noticed their silver car parked in front. They weren't just perusing the neighborhood. They wanted to see me.

"Yes, that's me."

As Brian was holding Shadow back in the hallway, they introduced themselves to me.

"Hi, I'm Elder A___ and this is my companion Elder T___."

I shook each of their hands and said it was nice to meet them. Then there was a little bit of an awkward silence. I couldn't invite them in because we were about to leave, so I was waiting for them to say the next thing so I could explain that we were just about to head out the door.

"We were just checking in and wondering if we could talk with you." 

"We are about to leave actually, but I would not mind visiting with you guys another time."

"Sure, we can do that. When are you available?"

I looked back at Brian. "When is our next free date?"

Today (Thursday) we are going to a birthday dinner for one of the boys. Friday we may be going to a playoff game. There is another game on Saturday and that is the day we also try to catch up on everything around the house and spend time with friends we never get to see. What about Sunday? Do missionaries even do this kind of thing on Sundays? Maybe not.

After thinking my schedule out loud while looking at Brian, I eventually responded. "How about Monday. I get home around 5:30 everyday. So any time after that is fine."

"Sure. Is 6 okay?"

"Yeah, that will work. It was good seeing you two."

"Ok. I hope you have a nice evening. We'll see you next week."

As they walked back to their car, I noticed how hot and humid it was outside. That poor greenie from Utah is definitely not used to this weather.

"Do you guys need a bottle of water or anything?"

"No we are fine. Have a good evening."

I closed the door and looked at Brian. "I can't believe they drove out this way without giving us any warning. I feel bad that they wasted their time."

"Well, they probably should have called ahead of time. Should we hold hands next time they visit?"

 I never went on a mission, but I would go out with the missionaries to talk with potential converts a few times in the past. Seven years ago, I could not have pictured myself being on the other side of the door.

I am not sure what I am going to say to them or what they want to say to me. I will probably respond with a simplified version of my last post. But outside of that, I am not sure. I do not want to shove my issues in their face, but I do want to be honest. And no, Brian and I won't be holding hands.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Families Are Together Forever, Unless...

I was with the boys and Brian getting in the car after having some frozen yogurt when they called. My phone started ringing and I pulled it out to look at the number displaying on the screen. All I recognized was the Houston area code, but I decided to answer anyways.


"Hi, is this Evan?"

"Yes. I'm sorry. Who is this?"

"The missionaries. How are you doing?"

The kids were joking and laughing with each other in the back, which proved to give me difficulty of hearing the man speaking on the other end of the line.

"I'm doing well. I'm sorry, who?"

"It's the missionaries. We were just in the neighborhood and wondering if we could stop by."

"Oh, cool. I'm actually not home right now, but you are welcome to come over another time. I have moved a few times in the last couple of years. What address do you guys have for me?"

They repeated the address of the apartment I shared with Brian in Greenway Plaza. Two thoughts came across my mind when I heard this:

  1. I don't remember ever updating my records with this address. I am almost positive I never did this myself. 
  2. Were they really in the area? Greenway Plaza is mostly just office space with a handful of apartment complexes thrown in. I doubt these complexes allow solicitors. But maybe they were visiting a member in the area. Because I have never been a missionary, I wonder if missionaries tend to say these sort of things for the sake of making their visits appear more convenient.

I gave them my new address and they said they would check in with me another time. 

I still struggle with my Mormon identity. This faith upbringing was what my life growing up was centered around and it is something I just can't throw away or forget. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like attending regularly again, but for the last few years, every time I go I feel more out of place. If these missionaries actually decided to visit with me, how would I present myself? What would I say? So as I was writing this entry, I made a list of multiple reasons why I struggle to be an active Mormon. But there was one reason in particular that was so glaring to me and I believe this is the root reason why I have a hard time going:

Some families are together forever.

There is this church video from the nineties, "On the Way Home," about the conversion of a family who had a young daughter who died in a bike accident. Was I the only one that watched it dozens of times to the point where I could at one time recite the lines?

 So the entire premise of the the sweet and syrupy film is that a family, who are struggling to get over their daughter/sister's death, begins taking the discussions with the missionaries. This eventually leads to the entire family being baptized and the film ends giving viewers (especially potential converts) hope that they can be with their families forever.

During one of the discussions the family is having with the sister missionaries, one of the sisters states:
"Family relationships don't have to end in death. Through prophets, God has restored the knowledge that a husband and wife can be married for eternity. And God has promised... that their family relationships can endure forever. Not just death till you part... You can see your sister again!... I know you will be with your daughter again."

The concept of the eternal family really is beautiful. This a very core belief found in the Church and I believe it is a very valid reason for Mormons to cling to their faith. In fact, I still believe in the concept of eternal families. But I just cannot come to terms with the Mormon thought process on how God judges the make-up of families.

There are a lot of conditions where an entire family unit cannot qualify as an "eternal family" in the eyes of Mormonism; some families deal with divorce while others may have a parent or child who leaves Mormonism behind. Sure, in the eyes of the member, these families still have hope in the long run. A family member can return to the fold or a divorce could be fixed or could essentially work out for the better. But what about family units with same-sex parents? They certainly exist and good examples can be found here, here, and here.

In "On the Way Home", what if the family was headed by a gay couple? Would the dialog from the sister missionary change? Would the sister missionaries even bother to teach the family? Would there be no hope for the parents and their kids to see their deceased daughter again? There certainly are many same-sex headed households with children. According to the Mormon faith, it is impossible for these families to be together forever, even if every member of that household is more righteous than most members of the church,  even if the couple vowed for lifelong celibacy, and even if the same-sex headed family did convert to Mormonism. It won't happen. They will not go to the Celestial Kingdom as a family unit. As far-fetched as this sounds, how is this fair to a non-LDS same-sex couple interested in converting? How is it fair to their children?

I can get over some of the weird historical claims found in Mormonism. I can get over the fact that I have had to deal with less-than-kind members who justify their attitude because they think Boyd K. Packer says it is okay. Although it is still an open wound, I know I can get over Proposition 8. But I cringe and cannot get over the empty pit I get in my stomach when I see the Proclamation to the Family. Unless I were to do an about-face on the direction of my life and somehow justify the expected depression and self-loathing I would later deal with, there is no hope for me to be a part of an eternal family in the eyes of Mormonism.

Out of all the blog posts I have read and out of all the Facebook discussions I follow in these progressive Mormon groups, I have never noticed this hypothetical situation brought to the table. Maybe I am just weird and the only one who thinks about it. Am I the only one? I know there are some active Mormons who are in a same-sex relationship. Don't they worry about how the LDS Church defines a family?

Whatever the case, I believe in a fair and just God. I feel like in God's eyes, the gender make up of a couple means little to Him and what matters most is the love displayed within that family unit. So in the eternal perspective, I am not worried. :-)

(Edit: Two months later and the missionaries still have not called me back.)