I've had a reddit account since I don't know when, but until the last few weeks I only used it once in a great while to speak up when I saw something egregiously stupid, so I ended up with negative "karma" from people downvoting my comments. But I got into the positive a few weeks ago and, as the designers obviously intended, it gave me a bit of a dopamine rush. Haha, I thought, I hope I don't get addicted to this feeling. Of course I did. Anyway, the other day I saw that bestselling fantasy author and Latter-day Saint Brandon Sanderson had done an AMA (Ask Me Anything) and I was very impressed with his most popular response to the most popular question, so I'm going to pass it along here and save myself some actual writing for today. The question was asked by someone calling themself RattusRattus:
How do you feel about the fact that queer people are treated better in your novels than on the campus you teach at? How do you reconcile donating to a church that promotes purity culture, homophobia, and anti-Semitism with writing books for the general public?
BYU is pretty awful to queer people. In the 1960s and 70s it conducted witch hunts against closeted gay students with the object of forcing them to undergo conversion therapy (which didn't and doesn't work) or leave the school. A couple years ago it removed a ban on "homosexual behavior" from its Honor Code mid-semester, then for two weeks told confused gay students that yes, they were now allowed to date and hold hands and kiss just like straight students do, before the church commissioner of education who apparently had been asleep for two weeks told them that no, they still can't. Many students felt that they had been tricked into coming out of the closet. Hence the semi-regular protests since then. Ignorant people often ask why they go to BYU in the first place, and the answers include but are not limited to family pressure, the cheap tuition for members of the church that owns it, and the fact that people in their late teens and early twenties are often still figuring out their sexuality in the first place. An entire tax-exempt charity, the OUT Foundation, exists just to help LGBTQ+ students escape from BYU. So anyway, Brandon responded in a livestream that was subsequently transcribed thus:
Thank you for a bold but not insulting phrasing of that question. So the church’s general stance on LGBTQ people is not where I, as a liberal member of the church, would like it to be. That being said, I have faith in the church, I have had spiritual experiences, confirming to me that this is where God wants me and that God is real.
This gives me so much to think about. I've recently become even more convinced by the movie Lightyear that neutral or positive portrayals of LGBTQ+ characters in media are essential. I thought the movie was pretty mediocre, but these people having aneurysms because two women in it love each other can get bent. Disney has produced scores upon scores of movies where men and women kiss each other (or men kiss unconscious women, or whatever). One same-sex couple is not "forcing their lifestyle down your throat." It is not "grooming your children." It frightens me that some grown adults in this day and age still believe their children will turn gay if they ever see anyone being gay. For heaven's sake, see a therapist if you're that insecure in your sexuality. I grew up with heterosexuality constantly being shoved in my face by all the straight people who flaunt their lifestyles without a second thought, and I still thought sex was gross from the moment I learned what it was. What these media portrayals actually strive to accomplish is to demonstrate that LGBTQ+ people are just normal people with the same hopes and dreams as anyone else, thus reducing prejudice and making LGBTQ+ children (and adults) hate themselves less. No one can make me believe that isn't a worthy goal.
As an aspiring author myself, obviously not worthy to even mention myself in the same post as Brandon Sanderson, I never had much of an agenda to do this. My as-yet-unpublished novel references the same-sex relationships of a couple of very minor characters for no other reason than to acknowledge that this is a fact of the world now and in 2153 when it takes place. Just recently when I revised it yet again, I realized that my protagonist is a little bit bisexual. She's mostly into men but she flirts with women just because she can. I never planned for her to flirt with women. I don't even know how to flirt with women. She just went ahead and did it. Similarly, in a story that I wrote for a graduate school class and then incorporated into my thesis, the protagonist and her best friend developed a camaraderie that seemed like a bit more than just best friends, and the professor pointed it out, so I went ahead and made them lovers and barely had to change anything. It was neither essential to the story nor agenda-driven. It just happened because the characters wanted it to happen. So maybe I'll just continue along those lines in my writing career if I ever have one.
Brandon's response went over well. HandOfMaradonny said:
I'm just super impressed you answered and didn't ignore.
Brandon later responded directly to the original asker of the question:
Honestly, I'm really glad you asked this one.
Wow. Brandon Sanderson wants to wrestle with difficult ideas, difficult questions, and his own internal inconsistencies. A mind after my own heart. I think I'm in love.
RIP Brandi Weaver
I went to a small school where everyone in grades 7-12 knew everyone else's first and last name. When Kyle Cootware died in a four-wheeler accident in 2009, everyone mourned. A palpable gloom engulfed the entire school building. College hasn't been like that. Through the years I read in the news that a student I never heard of had died in a bike accident, and that a couple of students I recognized but never met had died by suicide, and that someone a couple blocks from my apartment had been murdered by her ex-boyfriend. But there wasn't the same sense of community and the same universal mourning. So anyway, I didn't know Brandi Weaver particularly well and I'm afraid I don't have a lot to say about her, but I did know her a little and it is a bit jarring and sobering that she's suddenly gone from natural causes at such a young age. I think I was in ninth grade when I sat at the same lunch table as her. It's been so long that I don't even remember, but I remember that she was always nice to me. She was one of those older girls who treated me like I was super cool even though I was the biggest dork. She smiled and joked a lot and just seemed to have a great attitude toward life. My condolences to her family and especially to her fiancé and children.
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender Christian male, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic and asexual, so you can't, unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.