Sunday, December 21, 2014

*Updated* Korra Season 4 Finale: Response to Lesbian Controversy

     *This post has been updated as of 1/29/2015. Update is at the bottom of the post*
     For those of you who have read my blog before, you may have noticed that I have used quotes from Avatar: The Last Airbender multiple times in multiple posts. I have long considered Avatar: The Last Airbender my favorite TV show, and still stand by that. For those of you who have watched the series, you may be aware that there was a sequel; The Legend of Korra. Because of my love for the original series, I was excited for the sequel. The Legend of Korra was definitely different and I loved it, but Avatar: The Last Airbender will always be my favorite of the two.
     The Legend of Korra had 4 seasons, and the 4th season (which was completed 2 days ago) was announced to be the last of the Avatar series. I was at work 2 days ago when the final episode was released. My sister, who is also a fan of Korra, watched the episode while I was at work, and texted me after the episode warning me I probably wouldn't want to watch it because there would be things in it that I wouldn't like.
     I didn't want to spoil the end of the episode before actually watching it, but at the same time I wanted to know what my sister meant. I listed all the possibilities in my head of what she could have meant. Did someone swear in the episode? Unlikely. They couldn't do that on a show rated TV-Y7. Was something sexually explicit shown or said? Again, they couldn't have kept that TV-Y7 rating. Did a character I like a lot get killed? Maybe, but that wouldn't make me not want to watch it. Hmm.... I wasn't sure what she meant. Then it hit me. Something she knew I wouldn't like, something they could get away with without affecting their rating. What if they brought up homosexuality? What if characters of the same-sex kissed, or expressed their romantic love for one another, or got married? Is that what she meant?
     With my new suspicion, I wanted to confirm if I was correct. I looked it up online, and confirmed with my sister, and sure enough the internet had exploded with news articles, fan forums, etc. all claiming that the final episode of Korra ended with a homosexual romantic interest between Korra and Asami (both female main characters). For a second I was angry with the directors. How could they add that in to a show I love so much? I decided I wasn't going to watch it, and was going to boycott the entire Korra series and never watch it again and definitely never own the series. But, for whatever reason, after work I decided I was going to finish the Legend of Korra series anyway, because I wanted to see and confirm for myself what had happened.
     I watched the finale with my defenses up already from what I had read online. I dissected every interaction I saw between Korra and Asami. I focused as much as I could, trying to pick out anything that hinted at romance between them, and I saw nothing of the sort until the last 2 minutes of the episode. I'll give a short explanation of what happened during those 2 minutes. Korra and Asami talk alone for a bit while there is a party going on in the background (though far enough back it's not visible in the scene). Asami has just lost her father for the second time (this time permanently as he was killed earlier in the episode). I'll just put down Korra's and Asami's conversation:

Korra: Want to sit with me for a minute? I'm not ready to get back to the party just yet.
(Korra and Asami sit)
Korra: I don't think I ever really apologized. 
Asami: For what?
Korra: For being gone all that time. For not coming back sooner.
Asami: You don't need to apologize for anything. I'm just so happy you're here now. I don't think I could have handled losing you and my father in the same day.
Korra: I am so sorry about what happened.
(Korra and Asami hug)
Asami: Thank you. I'm just so glad I was able to forgive him.
(Korra and Asami stop hugging)
Korra: So what now? Back to the dance floor?
Asami: I'm kind of all danced out. Honestly, after everything that's happened the past few months, I could use a vacation.
Korra: Let's do it! Let's go on a vacation, just the two of us, anywhere you want.
Asami: Really? Okay. I've always wanted to see what the spirit world's like.
Korra: Sounds perfect.
At this point, the conversation ends. The camera cuts out to show Korra and Asami walking towards the spirit portal. They stop very near the portal, look at each other for a second, hold hands, and walk into the portal. Once in the portal they turn to face each other, hold both hands, and become blurry as they enter the spirit world. This is the point where the camera moves upwards to signify the end of the episode.
     Now when I first watched it, my defenses were up, and I was expecting to see something homosexual between them. And you know what? While I was watching the final scene, and for about a minute after the episode concluded I agreed with what I had read. I thought for sure it was meant to show that Asami and Korra were romantically involved, and that homosexuality had been implied.
However, after discussing with my best friend who was watching the episode with me and who also deals with same-sex attraction and is a faithful member of the LDS Church, my conclusion on the meaning started to change. Dissecting the episode and series for myself and talking to my best friend and my family I have decided that the romantic relationship between Korra and Asami simply doesn't have backing. It doesn't make sense. And things just don't add up.

     First of all, my readers should know (from previous posts) my position on physical touch expressed in friendship between members of the same-sex. I do not believe that physical touch (so long as it is not sexual in nature) should be seen as wrong or homosexual between friends of the same-sex. I have held hands with male friends before, and don't have any issues with it. There was nothing romantic between us. It was an expression of our love for each other as friends, not as romantic partners. There have been many times that I have hugged friends of the same-sex, and again, nothing romantic there. I have looked into friends eyes while expressing physical contact, and again, no romantic connotations for me.
     With my experiences in regards to physical touch with members of the same-sex, I don't think that the hand-holding, hugging, or eye contact between Korra and Asami was at all proof of homosexuality. I also do not see how them going on a vacation together can be seen as proof of a lesbian relationship. And the fact that Asami said "I'm just so happy you're here now. I don't think I could have handled losing you and my father in the same day." doesn't prove anything either. I mean, who would want to lose their best friend and their only living parent in the same day? That is definitely something I couldn't handle. I would say the same thing to my best friend, and again, there is nothing romantic about our relationship.
     As I dissected things further, I started to have fewer concerns that homosexuality was implied. I myself deal with same-sex attraction (which should be obvious by this point) and therefore have my own experiences to draw from. Yes, I may not be a lesbian woman and don't know exactly what it's like to be a woman attracted to women, but I know what it looks like to be attracted to members of the same-sex, and with my personal knowledge I can honestly say I didn't notice anything of that nature in Korra as a character.
     Earlier in the series, Korra dated Mako pretty seriously (Mako is a male main character), with love and romance expressed between them both, including kissing on the lips. Korra was asked by other males to date, but she expressed preference for Mako. They broke up eventually, but not because of a conflict of attractions, and even in the last episode, literally just barely over a minute before the scene of Korra and Asami, Mako and Korra exchange hints of romance, and Korra looks at Mako with longing eyes. Literally, just over a minute before the supposed "lesbian" scene, Korra shows signs of heterosexual love and romance for Mako.
     I know that, for me, growing up with SSA, I never had a prominent "preference" between women. There wasn't one woman, or even multiple women, that I regarded as more beautiful and desirable from the rest. I never kissed a girl on the lips due to romantic interest. And yet Korra did both of those things. Korra expressed preference for Mako, and kissed him multiple times out of romantic interest. There are even scenes of Asami acting out the same feelings of preference for Mako when they were dating (before they broke up and Mako moved to Korra), and Asami engaged in romantic expressions with Mako, again including kissing on the lips.
     With that brought up, I turn back to Korra and Asami's last scene, and just don't see any of the signs of romantic interest shown between them and Mako. Korra and Asami never kiss, they never romantically date, they never express attraction for each other in a way that could be deemed homosexual, and they never express romantic love or interest in one another.
     Ultimately, after dissecting things, watching the end of the episode multiple times, thinking things through, prayer, and talking with people in my life, I have come to the conclusion that yes, there is a possibility that the directors of the show meant to imply homosexuality between Korra and Asami, but that I don't see it at all, and I really don't think it was their intent. I really honestly don't believe that what happened between Korra and Asami was lesbian in nature. And I'm definitely not just coming to this conclusion because I love the show and don't want it to be ruined. I was literally ready at a moments notice to boycott The Legend of Korra entirely if I had noticed something that definitely implied homosexuality, but I just didn't see it.
     I know that nearly every news article and forum out there about it will say that the evidence pointing towards Korra and Asami being in a lesbian relationship is irrefutable, and I know why. The world is changing. Laws are being altered and changed now to legalize gay marriage. People are doing everything they can to stamp out homophobia and discrimination. Anything that is something people can hold on to in order to root for their cause, they will hold on to, even if it means stretching the truth. Well, I say the whole lesbian romance people have inferred between Asami and Korra is definitely refutable. I don't see it, and I don't believe it. There isn't enough evidence to convince me.
     I feel so blessed that God gave me the trials, skills, and gifts that He gave me. I know that so many in the world will continue to fight against the truth, fight against God, and fight against his people, but as Korra said: "I know I was in a pretty dark place... but I finally understand why I had to go through all of that. I needed to understand what true suffering was, so I could become more compassionate to others, even to people like Kuvira." I definitely had dark times in my life, times when I wanted to die, when I felt like an abomination, when I couldn't find happiness or light, but now I've realized why I experienced those things. It was so I could be more compassionate, more understanding, more patient and empathetic. I'm definitely not perfect. I don't treat everyone as well as I should, but I am better than I would have ever been if I didn't have the trials that I have had in my life and still have.
     I love God, I love life, I love my family, I love my best friend, I love my other friends and all the people in my life. I love those who fight against me, who fight against my religion, who fight against God, who fight against all I know to be beautiful and right in the world. I feel sad for them. Sometimes I feel anger, resentment, frustration, etc. but I just want them to know that there is a God who loves them more than anything or anyone on this earth ever could, and that regardless of what they've done, Heavenly Father loves them. I'm not perfect, but I know that God is, and I know there is still good in this world.
     I've received a few comments on my blog and other places about this post. They have been in regards to the creators of Korra coming out and saying they meant for Korra and Asami to be portrayed as a lesbian couple. I was aware of the creators coming out and saying that the day it happened, and I had published this post before they came out and said that, but have been busy in college and haven't had the time to come and write an update. However, with the update I will be keeping all of the original post. I am very disappointed in the creators, but I feel it is important to understand that physical touch, compliments, and love expressed between members of the same-sex should not be viewed as a default of homosexuality, and therefore I am leaving this post as-is. 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

"Pray the Gay Away"

     Ever heard that phrase? I have. I've heard it multiple times, including today. "Pray the gay away" is a phrase used in reference to a belief some people have that people with same-sex attraction can just pray to God, and that God will remove their attractions toward members of the same-sex and replace it with an attraction towards the opposite-sex. Some people believe that being same-sex attracted is a sin in and of itself, or at least an "impurity", even if it is never acted on.
     I'm still in my YSA ward I mentioned in blog posts before (YSA stands for Young Single Adults). I've shared my testimony about same-sex attraction multiple times in this ward for the whole ward to hear. Well, today during Sunday School a woman from the stake pulled me out of class saying she wanted to talk to me. I went out and stood in the hall with her. I don't really know her position in the stake, and I don't really know her, but I have seen her before.
     Well, we stood for a second before she brought up my same-sex attraction that I had shared about months ago. She told me she had been wanting to talk to me ever since I had shared my testimony months ago, but never got the chance until now. She didn't speak the best English, but she basically explained to me how if I pray to God that my attractions will go away, and told me that God can make me "love a woman" and that I should get married to a girl and not sit alone at Church. I wanted so badly to explain to her how wrong she was, to make her realize how wrong she was, but I couldn't. She was an older woman, her English wasn't all that great, and I could tell from her tone, firmness, and the tears in her eyes that she honestly believed what she was saying.
     I was frustrated. I was offended. I was sad. How could she honestly believe that? I've heard it before from many other people telling me I chose to be gay, and that I could just pray and God would fix me, but something was different this time. The other times that I heard it said, I was still trying to figure things out myself, so it seemed like feedback more than insult, but this time, since I have an unshakeable testimony about the subject already, it felt like an insult, a slap in the face. I could tell she had the right intentions, but she was sorely misinformed.
     Can I really blame her though? I mean I once believed the same thing. I tried praying and praying and praying begging God to take it away. I mean, why wouldn't I? People hated me because of it. I got bullied, picked on, and I constantly felt un-included and isolated. I even hated myself for it. I honestly believed that I was an abomination to God and that's why he wouldn't take it away. But you know what? My understanding is completely different now. Could God take my attractions away? In theory, yes. God can do anything. But there are certain things God decides not to do, and He always has a reason for it.
     I'll try to explain it this way. Say you were born with only one leg. Do you think that just by praying about it, God would suddenly give you a new leg? Or if you have autism, that just by praying it would suddenly be cured? Or an addiction, does God just instantly take that away? Or you're homeless, does God just make money rain from the sky? God could do all those things, and in some very rare cases he has (scriptures about Christ healing the sick and lame, for example), but for the most part, God gives us support throughout our trials without ever completely curing us. We are given trials in this life so that we can grow spiritually and rely on God more wholly.
     I don't hate the lady who said that to me today, and I don't hate the other people who have told me that. Do I have frustrated emotions to resolve? Yes, but I don't hate them. More than anything I'm sad for them, sad that they misunderstand the gift God gave me. Sad for the people they may meet in the future who deal with SSA who may get the same "Pray the gay away" response from them. Same-sex attraction has definitely had a role in bad things that happened in my life, but it wasn't the sole cause, and ultimately it boils down to my free agency when I make a mistake, and doesn't necessarily point to any one condition or circumstance.
     I just want everyone to know that everyone is human, and everyone deserves just as much respect and love as the next person. God loves all His children, and so should we. We should be careful what we say about sensitive subjects. Don't come to conclusions without first investigating the issue yourself. I recognize that there are stories out there of Christians (both and the LDS faith and others) who claim to have been rid of their same-sex attractions. I'm not here to say it's not possible. If it worked for them, then great for them, but it doesn't mean it works for everyone, and it definitely doesn't mean the people it doesn't work for are sinners. I know that I will not be "free" from my attractions in this life. That isn't part of God's plan for me. And you know what? I'm happy about that. My attractions, my struggles, everything about me has made me who I am today, and I wouldn't trade that for anything in the world.
     There are people who love and support me as best they can, who don't reject me because of things I can't control, and I know that God doesn't reject me either. God loves me completely and wholly.
     I know same-sex attraction is such a complex topic in the Church, but always approach it with sensitivity and care. Don't try to make others' feel like sinners, for we are all sinners. Help them feel like equals. Love them into the gospel, don't reject them in the very place they should be most accepted. Don't enable them to sin, but at the same time don't hate them and drive them away.
     I know I need to work on being more loving and outgoing in my ward, and I know that the Church has the potential to be very loving, welcoming, and understanding of everyone, but there's still a lot of work to do there. Life is good though. I know God lives. I know God loves me. And I know all that He put in my life was meant to bring me closer to Him and become who I was meant to be.