Friday, January 28, 2011


Scott and I debated about whether or not to include a "newsletter" with our Christmas card this year. One thing was for sure though--if we did write a letter, we wanted to be completely honest with our friends and family.

As December arrived, I started to play around with words on paper. I came up with a letter I was comfortable with, and then I forwarded it to Scott for editing.

I was only slightly nervous the morning I dropped them in the mail, to aunts and uncles, college roommates and friends from high school, to people from our ward who have moved away, and to Scott's mission president. But I thought it best not to beat around the bush, to prevent rumors and hearsay and just let the truth be known, to prevent awkward excuses or conversations at future reunions.

Instead, I have now heard from a man in the ward, who talked to Scott's step-cousin who heard from his parents about our letter, and I probably have just fanned the flames of the rumor mill instead of calming them. :D I wonder if our parents have received concerned phone calls from any of their sibblings. If so, I wonder what they are saying. Even though I wonder, I honestly don't want to know. I will let them be awkward. It could be good for them!

We also received an interesting letter from Scott's mission president, saying that the only reason a marriage falls appart is if one of the spouses is sinning, and so that spouse should confess and repent.

Anyway, for those of you who are not lucky enough to have received a Christmas card from us, here are the important parts of the letter. Enjoy!

Every year brings many adventures, and 2010 has definitely been no exception. In fact, Sarah's motto this year coincides with this year's Young Women's Theme in Joshua 1:9. "Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest."

The most significant event of the year was the birth of baby Sebastian on June 28. He is our pride and joy, and all of his siblings spoil him terribly as none of them can ever handle hearing him cry. In fact, they might cry collectively more than he does as their fights over him often end in tears. Mom and Dad definitely appreciate all of the help, especially when it comes to diaper changes and babysitting (for those much needed nights out).

(The letter proceeds to talk a little bit about each of the other four children.)
The toughest adventure has been the "separation" of Scott and Sarah. For now, they continue to live in the same house, (and plan to continue to do so indefinitely while they raise the children) and they remain good friends. In fact, if you were to peek in at our family at a random time, chances are things would appear no different than they've always been.
Scott continues to work for ______________, where his focus has changed from IT to graphic design and marketing. He is dating occasionally, and hopes to eventually find a new life partner to share his heart and dreams with.
Sarah continues to enjoy teaching math full time at _________ High School, supervising the RAIN club (the school's gay-straight alliance, "Rising Against Intolerance Now"), and spending the rest of her hours, both day and night, with her five greatest blessings (the children). She is not anxious to play the dating game and does not plan to date in the near future—unless she happens to stumble across a (straight) man who sweeps her off her feet.

We are aware of and ever grateful for the prayers that are uttered in our behalf. It's difficult to imagine what this year would have been like without the support and love of family and friends, and without the love and atonement of our Savior, whose birth we celebrate at this time of year.

Without a doubt, many more adventures await us in the coming year. We hope this greeting finds you happy and healthy, and blessed with faith and hope and the support of angels as you face your own adventures with strength and courage.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Utah GSAs

I've tried to keep information about the gay-straight alliance at my school on a different blog, to help with student privacy issues that others at my school were concerned about. But the club is alive and well, the officers are awesome, and more importantly, similar clubs at other schools throughout Utah are blossoming.

Here are links to a couple of news articles, if you've missed them. Text for the articles is listed below them so that when they archive them, I still have them. :)

Salt Lake Tribune

New York Times:

By Rosemary Winters

The Salt Lake Tribune
First published Dec 17 2010 07:09PM
Updated Dec 20, 2010 09:28AM

Stetson Sheffield aimed to create a safe space for himself and others at Clearfield High as he started his senior year at a new school.

Chantel Bleazard wanted to stick up for her gay and transgender peers at Tooele High.

Struck by the loss of a friend, Mario Ramirez, a Bonneville High senior, hoped he could help prevent other gay teen suicides in his community outside Ogden.

They are just three of the dozens of students who have launched gay-straight alliance (GSA) clubs at Utah high schools. This year, the number of such clubs has nearly tripled in the Beehive State, growing from 10 in 2009-10 to 27, from St. George to Logan, according to the Utah Pride Center’s GSA Network. Students are working to open additional clubs next year at schools in Pleasant Grove, Vernal, Grantsville, Sandy and South Jordan.

“These GSAs are wonderful, safe, open and affirming environments where young people can just be who they are,” says Valerie Larabee, Utah Pride Center executive director. “That’s a rare space for some youth, particularly in a conservative, religious state.”

She credits the expansion of gay-straight clubs both to the support offered to students by the 1-year-old GSA Network — including help crafting by-laws — and to a “softened” climate in Utah for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ endorsement of Salt Lake City’s adoption of anti-discrimination protections for gay and transgender people in November 2009 was a turning point, Larabee says. The church opposes gay marriage and teaches that same-sex relationships are sinful, but has grown increasingly vocal in urging compassion toward LGBT individuals and condemning their mistreatment.

“Across the board, I think it has allowed more public dialogue about our issues,” Larabee says.

Until now, the expansion of gay-straight alliances has been sluggish in Utah.

The first alliance debuted at Salt Lake City’s East High in 1995, prompting the school district to shut down all non-curricular clubs, a move that led the American Civil Liberties of Utah to file two lawsuits on behalf of students. In October 2000, Salt Lake City School District reinstated all nonacademic clubs, including East’s GSA, and the ACLU dropped its litigation.

Controversy sparked again when Provo High approved a GSA for 2005-06, a first for Utah County. As a result, the Utah Legislature passed a school clubs law in 2007 that forbids clubs from discussing sexual activity outside of legally recognized marriages or contraception. The law also requires parental permission slips for membership in all secondary school clubs.

“I would rather not see [gay-straight alliances in schools], but it’s not up to me,” says Sen. Chris Buttars, the West Jordan Republican who sponsored the 2007 law after repeated attempts to quash GSAs. “It’s up to the principal and the parents. That’s who should make decisions about these kids.”

Buttars says he has no plans for further legislation directed at student clubs.

The 1984 Equal Access Act, which requires that schools that receive federal funding give all noncurricular clubs equal access to school resources, and the First Amendment both protect students’ right to establish free-speech forums, whether or not school administrators agree with the subject matter, says Darcy Goddard, legal director of the ACLU of Utah.

Despite clarity in federal law and many court decisions, Goddard says she still runs into instances where students are being blocked from forming gay-straight alliances.

Last spring, GSAs were approved at four Washington County School District high schools after the ACLU alerted the district that its own content-neutral club application was not being uniformly used by schools.

“We had been told there was some resistance in the schools,” says Kelly Blake, president of the Washington school board. “[Homosexuality] goes against the morals of the community.”

But, he adds, “as a board, we looked into what these clubs really do, and what they teach is tolerance.”

In July, Tooele County School District approved a GSA at Tooele High — a first for the district — after the application process stalled for much of the 2009-10 school year over whether the club should be allowed to have the word “gay” in its title. Goddard, in a letter to the superintendent, insisted censoring the club’s name would violate federal law and the First Amendment.

“If it wasn’t for the ACLU, we probably still, to this day, would not have it approved,” says Bleazard, the 17-year-old president of the Tooele High GSA. “It’s been a really positive thing for our school to kind of open up its mind. … We still have a lot of work to do because a lot of the kids are scared to join it.”

The gay-straight clubs, which offer social and service-oriented activities, promote safe school climates for all students, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The groups may tackle issues such as anti-gay bullying and suicide prevention.

Last year, 85 percent of LGBT students in middle and high school experienced verbal harassment at school, according to a nationwide survey of 7,621 teens by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). Nearly one in five said they had been punched, kicked or injured with a weapon because of their sexual orientation.

Students at schools with a gay-straight alliance were less likely to hear homophobic remarks from their peers and more likely to feel a sense of belonging, according to the report.

In January, Sheffield and members of the Clearfield High Gay-Straight Alliance plan to tackle the term “that’s so gay,” which teenagers often use to describe things they don’t like, in a video skit for the school. The group hopes to raise awareness that the term is hurtful.

At a recent club meeting, Sheffield asked members of the GSA to question stereotypes.

“What is a stereotypical lesbian?” he asked. “What is a stereotypical Mormon?”

Students shared their own experiences of being stereotyped and of seeing through labels they had placed on others.

“You guys need to be the champions of diversity,” adviser Jenny Williams, an English teacher, told the students. “You need to be the ones who accept others first.”


A version of this article appeared in print on January 2, 2011, on page A13 of the New York edition. By Erik Eckholm

ST. GEORGE, Utah — Some disapproving classmates called members of the new club “Satanists.” Another asked one of the girls involved, “Do you have a disease?”

But at three local high schools here this fall, dozens of gay students and their supporters finally convened the first Gay-Straight Alliances in the history of this conservative, largely Mormon city. It was a turning point here and for the state, where administrators, teachers and even the Legislature have tried for years to block support groups for gay youths, calling them everything from inappropriate to immoral.

The new alliances in St. George were part of a drastic rise this fall in the number of clubs statewide, reflecting new activism by gay and lesbian students, an organizing drive by a gay rights group and the intervention of the American Civil Liberties Union, which has threatened to sue districts that put up arbitrary hurdles. Last January, only 9 high schools in Utah had active Gay-Straight Alliances; by last month, the number had reached 32.

The alliances must still work around a 2007 state law that was expressly intended to stifle them by requiring parental permission to join and barring any discussions of sexuality or contraception, even to prevent diseases.

Gayle Ruzicka, president of the Utah Eagle Forum, a conservative family group, promoted the law. Its authors expected, she said, that requiring parental permission would deter some children from joining the alliances and that restricting topics for discussion would mean that “there’s not a lot of purpose in being there, and the clubs end up being pretty small.”

“I just don’t think these clubs are appropriate in schools,” Ms. Ruzicka said. “You can talk about providing support, but you’re also creating a gay recruiting tool.”

But members of the new clubs said they were undaunted by the restrictions, which they said showed a misunderstanding of what the alliances meant for students who had often lived with fear and shame — at home and at school.

Kate Hanson, a 15-year-old bisexual sophomore at Snow Canyon High School, said that having the alliance “helps you realize that there are others like you and there are people who support you.”

“I was so excited when I heard we could have a G.S.A.,” she said. “I just thought it would be a fun club.”

With the increase in alliances, Utah is joining a growing national movement to provide friendly meeting places in schools for students who have often felt like misfits, clubs where gay youths and their supporters can socialize, speak out against discrimination and sponsor events like the Day of Silence in honor of bullied students.

Since the first club was formed in Massachusetts in 1988, by a gay boy and a straight girl with same-sex parents who were tired of being stigmatized, the organizations have spread to most of the country, reaching more than 4,000 high schools and even a handful of middle schools by 2008. The clubs are surging anew after recent publicized suicides of gay teenagers, said Eliza Byard, director of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network in New York.

The struggles of the alliances in Utah are known to advocates around the country. In 1997, when Salt Lake City school officials discovered that they could not single out alliances for a ban, they took the extraordinary step of outlawing all extracurricular clubs in district schools.

That move drew national attention and helped spur the creation of new alliances in other states, said Carolyn Laub, director of the GSA Network, a group based in California that provides leadership training.

The Salt Lake district eventually backed down, but as of last January, only nine clubs were active in the state, six of those in the capital.

Publicity about the breakthrough in St. George, an isolated city in the red-bluff desert of southwest Utah, has inspired students in other parts of the state, and by last month at least 32 clubs were operating, said Eric Hamren of the Utah Pride Center in Salt Lake City. He spent last spring and summer locating and training student organizers, finding some of them at the annual Queer Prom that his organization puts on for gay and lesbian students around the state.

But resistance continues. Some schools are still imposing legally shaky barriers, like requiring the unanimous approval of student officers or prohibiting activities that violate “community morals,” said Darcy Goddard, legal director of the A.C.L.U. of Utah.

As she did in St. George last year, Ms. Goddard has warned officials that such policies may violate the federal Equal Access Act— a law passed by Congress in the 1980s, mainly to protect Bible study groups in schools, that has become a prime tool for protecting Gay-Straight Alliances from arbitrary hurdles.

In 2007, conservative groups pushed through the state Student Clubs Act, still on the books, that was aimed at the alliances and reflected what rights groups called misleading stereotypes.

The law requires parental permission for participation in all school clubs and says organizations can be barred to “protect the physical, emotional, psychological or moral well-being of students and faculty.”

Students say the law reflects misconceptions about both homosexuality and the alliances, which in many cases are led by straight girls who want to support gay friends or siblings. The club at Dixie High School here, for example, is led by Bethany Coyle, a senior who describes herself as straight and a supporter of equal rights. She said that one vice principal had asked if the club would recruit homosexuals and that students had scrawled epithets on a sign-up sheet, scaring off some potential members.

A teacher advising one of the new clubs in St. George said that he opened each of the weekly meetings with a reminder of the forbidden topics of discussion, but that it was proving irrelevant. The students, he said, seemed more interested in making friends and planning events.

Jason Osmanski, a 17-year-old junior who was a driving force behind the new alliance at Snow Canyon High School and now serves as its president, said that while members sometimes shared stories of harassment, they did not need to discuss sexuality at the meetings.

If the students’ legal right to a club seems firmly established, antigay feelings in the community persist. Alliance members in St. George were disheartened by school board elections this fall, when several candidates spoke out against the groups, saying they hoped parents would refuse to give their permission for students to join.

The students say that they are ready to adapt to any reasonable conditions, and that they will persevere.

Friday, January 14, 2011


It has been a long time since I posted, simply because life is so busy.

But a short but touching conversation on Facebook ensued today, and now that I am between doing grades and preparing for a (hopefully) relaxing weekend, I want to post it.

Friend 1:
I came across this quote today and I could relate so much ha! :

"Have you ever been in love? Horrible isn't it? It makes you so vulnerable. It opens your chest and it opens up your heart and it means someone can get inside you and mess you up. You build up all these defenses. You build up a whole armor, for years, so nothing can hurt you, then one stupid person, no different from any other stupid person, wanders into your stupid life... You give them a piece of you. They didn't ask for it. They did something dumb one day, like kiss you or smile at you, and then your life isn't your own anymore. Love takes hostages. It gets inside you. It eats you out and leaves you crying in the darkness, so simple a phrase like 'maybe we should be just friends' or 'how very perceptive' turns into a glass splinter working its way into your heart. It hurts. Not just in the imagination. Not just in the mind. It's a soul-hurt, a body-hurt, a real gets-inside-you-and-rips-you-apart pain. Nothing should be able to do that. Especially not love. I hate love" - Neil Gaiman
Friend 2:
Love is overrated, yet I can't get enough of it. Now, that I think about it, it's not that much different than Fettucine Alfredo with clams.
Wow. That quote is perfect to what I am feeling regarding my relationship with Scott. I am so not anxious to try it again.
Friend 3:
Oh, how much I enjoy Neil Gaiman. Believe it or not, that's from a comic book.
Friend 4:
I have to disagree. Love is wonderful. Love is ennobling and uplifting. Love makes you strive to be better and bless the life of another person. Love is beautiful.
Friend 5:
He is right, love can be beautiful. What Neil is talking about is "unrequited love" which is another thing entirely. And the hard part, as Sarah's situation so achingly exemplifies, is loving a person so completely that you are willing to take the hurt, the pain, the humiliation while everyone else watches you---and sometimes while NO ONE knows--- and keep plodding along. Even though inside you feel like you're being ripped apart, but for love of that person you take it, calmly, patiently, with some hope that one day he or she will understand what you have done for him/her. Even walking away from someone you love can be an act of love, if you know it will make that person happy to be free to find another . . .
I could not have put it better myself. I am grateful for good friends that can help me feel--and understand what I feel.