David Baker is living what he calls the “ultimate paradox.”
Like many 21-year-old gays in the D.C. area, Baker spent last Saturday at Town as he does many weekends. A drag show is taking place downstairs, but he and his friends went to the upper level to dance to the latest remixes.
“I started going clubbing shortly after I came out,” he said. “But I don’t go all that regularly — probably once a month.”
But on Sunday, the situation is different. After donning his best church clothes, the Salt Lake City native who now lives in Rockville, went to a Mormon church in D.C. for a three-hour block of weekly service.
Activities included hearing speakers from within and outside the congregation and scripture discussion. Baker, a University of Utah graduate, is also co-chair of the cultural events committee and helped work to plan social events with other church members.
Baker’s presence among his congregation is distinct because he’s openly gay in a religion known for its hostility to homosexuality and opposition to same-sex marriage. The Mormon Church earned scorn from many in the LGBT community in 2008 for taking a lead role in backing Proposition 8 in California, which ended same-sex marriage there.
“It’s the ultimate paradox,” Baker said. “It’s been a struggle not just in dealing with my sexuality, but in the reactions that I get from church members sometimes or the reactions that I get from the gay community.”
Even though he stands out for being gay, Baker said he’s able to mingle with other churchgoers and voice his opinion that he’s the same as any other Mormon despite his sexual orientation.
“Lots of people tune me out, but I try and approach it from a concept that we are all children of God, that we are sinners and we are all imperfect,” he said. “So to judge one sin as being worse than others, and my quote-unquote sin being worse than yours is absurd. And that seems to be a message that people understand.”
His path to personal acceptance hasn’t been easy. Baker once considered seeking out shock therapy to alter his sexual orientation as well as participation in Evergreen, the Mormon Church’s reparative therapy program. Such programs were long ago discredited and repudiated by medical professionals.
“I had come out to my family and a couple of friends and it wasn’t so much, ‘Oh, dang it, I’m gay,’ it was, “OK, I’m gay. I accept it. How does this comport with my faith?” he said. “So, I spent pretty much just every waking hour just poring over scripture, poring over words of prophets, poring over everything I could find on sexuality and religion.”
In 2008, Baker attempted to commit suicide by taking an overdose of pills. His roommate found him and took him to a local hospital for treatment.
“I felt like I had to choose which half of me had to die,” he said. “And I got to the point that I thought if half of me has to die, and I still won’t know the truth, why not just kill all of me and then I can finally know the truth?”
While undergoing treatment, Baker said a psychologist suggested to him there could be a distinction between the word of God and the guidance of the church. His roommate came to visit him and made the same observation in the exact same words.
“It sort of caught in my mind that maybe there’s a distinction between what God is saying and what the Prophets and the Apostles are saying,” he said. “Maybe these leaders of the church are Mormon and everything they say is not a direct fact from God, but instead tinged with their own personal beliefs, however flawed they might be.”
Baker is one of many other gay Mormons in the D.C. area who continue to practice their faith despite the religion’s position on homosexuality.
About 60 Mormons or former Mormons are affiliated with the D.C. chapter of Affirmation, a group for LGBT members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Fred Bowers, Affirmation’s D.C. chapter leader, said about one-third of those on his organization’s mailing list still identify as Mormons and participate in the Mormon church, although to varying degrees.
“Some people may go only to the church on Sunday and some may be more active with other things the church is doing through the week,” Bowers said. “And some may be there active, but they only participate in what they select, but there are a good number that actually do still attend church.”
Those who are Mormon and openly gay face challenges in adhering to their faith. For example, Mormons engaged in same-sex relationships aren’t permitted to attend special services, such as weddings, in Mormon temples. Those who are sexually active in opposite-sex relationships outside of wedlock or those who consume alcohol are similarly unable to attend.
But Bowers said many LGBT Mormons stick with their faith simply because they truly believe in the church’s teachings or because their families have a long history with the religion.
“They’ve grown up with this.” Bowers said. “Just like an Episcopalian or Catholic or what have you, we still believe that. It hasn’t changed just because we’re gay or lesbian. We still believe in that church and we still believe in the principles of it.”
That’s the situation for Baker, who said he still considers himself a Mormon because he believes in the Gospel as presented by the church and because “they have the most truth.”
“That being said, I don’t think that they have it all,” he said. “One of the core articles of faith of the church sort of says that blatantly. It says that we believe all that God has revealed isn’t all that he’ll reveal, and we believe that he’ll yet reveal many great important things. So it’s very much an ongoing, open canon.”
Still, Baker said he’s adapted Mormon dogma into his own views of his sexual orientation. He said he doesn’t plan to have sex until he finds another man to marry — similar to how many straight Mormons abstain from sex until after they receive their nuptials.
“For me, no sex before marriage means a legal marriage because the church does recognize legal marriages — the traditional kind naturally — that aren’t performed in the temple,” he said. “And so, in my mind, that same non-temple civil ceremony would be recognized by God.
‘Wickedness never was happiness’
The difficulty of being Mormon and openly gay became particularly pronounced last week when a high-ranking leader of the church made anti-gay remarks during the 180th semi-annual general conference in Salt Lake City.
Boyd K. Packer, president of the Quorom of Twelve Apostles, called same-sex attractions “impure and unnatural” and characterized efforts to advance same-sex marriage across the country as attempts to “legalize immorality.” Additionally, he suggested people can change their sexual orientation, which can be overcome through prayer.
“We must understand that any persuasion to enter into any relationship that is not in harmony with the principles of the Gospel must be wrong,” he said. “In the Book of Mormon, we learn that ‘wickedness never was happiness.’”
Packer, who as an apostle is supposed to be delivering words directly from God, made the remarks to a crowd of 20,000 people in attendance and millions more watching the sermon via satellite transmission in churches and homes throughout the world.
For many gay Mormons, the words stung. Baker said he “cringed” as he heard Packer’s remarks and left the room where he and others had been viewing the sermon. He then realized he had to watch the entire remarks so he could respond to them later.
“I went back and watched the whole thing, and as I was listening to his words, I just felt frustration and I was very upset by what he was saying because it went against where the church has gone for the last five or 10 years,” he said.
Bowers said the remarks were particularly unfortunate in the wake of recent suicides of gay teens who took their lives after they were bullied and harassed and were disruptive to the dialogue that Affirmation had been pursuing with lower-level Mormon leaders “to heal the damage that was done by Prop 8.”
“They’re working so hard to get some sense of support and everything that we’re working to do that, and then this statement comes along that’s not very helpful,” Bowers said.
Changes were made to the speech in an online version of the remarks published later in the week. Packer’s reference to inborn “tendencies” was switched “temptations.” A question of “Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone?” was removed entirely.
Baker said another noteworthy change was the sermon had been downgraded from the level of revelation to a less stringent guide that Mormon church members would do well to follow.
“Before in the mindset of members of the church, it’s been seen as revelation even though it’s never been explicitly said as such,” Baker said. “To have that downgraded from everyone thinking it’s revelation … to actually, no, it’s just a guide, is really big.”
Kim Farah, an LDS spokesperson, said speakers have the opportunity to make changes to clarify their intent on the Monday following every general conference and the changes made to Packer’s sermon were in line with this practice.
“President Packer has simply clarified his intent,” she said. “As we have said repeatedly, the Church’s position on marriage and family is clear and consistent. It is based on respect and love for all of God’s children.”
Even with the corrections, Packer’s sermon has invoked the ire of the Human Rights Campaign, which pounced on the Mormon leader’s remarks.
Joe Solmonese, HRC’s president, called the sermon “inaccurate” and “dangerous” and said it could lead to more LGBT suicides similar to those that took place in the last month.
“When a faith leader tells gay people that they are a mistake because God would never have made them that way and they don’t deserve love, it sends a very powerful message that violence and/or discrimination against LGBT people is acceptable,” Solmonese said. “It also emotionally devastates those who are LGBT or may be struggling with their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
HRC launched a petition campaign against Packer for his remarks following his sermon. On Tuesday, the organization delivered to Mormon Church headquarters a petition signed by 150,000 people asking the leader to correct his remarks further.
Fred Sainz, HRC’s vice president of communications, said the response to the initiative against Packer is the largest for any petition campaign in the organization’s history.
“I think it was the impact of Elder Packer’s words,” Sainz said. “Any one of those issues would have drawn significant scorn from members of the community and our fair-minded straight allies, but when you lump all of them into one sermon, and it comes from the second-highest ranking official of the Mormon Church, I think it rises to the level where people are going to pay attention and demand change.”
Sainz said HRC is seeking a further correction from the Mormon Church because Packer’s remarks were “factually and scientifically untrue.”
“They’re inaccurate,” he said. “And so, they owe the factual record a revision to reflect what is true.”
Michael Otterson, an LDS spokesperson, responded to HRC’s efforts by saying that while the church disagrees with the organization on many issues, they have some “common ground.” For example, Otterson said the church denounces the acts of bullying that led to numerous gay suicides in the past month.
“We join our voice with others in unreserved condemnation of acts of cruelty or attempts to belittle or mock any group or individual that is different — whether those differences arise from race, religion, mental challenges, social status, sexual orientation or for any other reason,” Otterson said. “Such actions simply have no place in our society.”
Otterson maintained the church believes any sexual activity outside of marriage is wrong and marriage should be exclusive to one man and woman. Still, he said these beliefs “should never, ever be used as justification for unkindness.”
“The church recognizes that those of its members who are attracted to others of the same sex experience deep emotional, social and physical feelings,” he continued. “The church distinguishes between feelings or inclinations on the one hand and behavior on the other. It’s not a sin to have feelings, only in yielding to temptation.”
HRC’s effort to draw attention to Packer’s remarks has earned mixed reviews among some gay Mormons. Bowers said HRC’s efforts at drawing attention to Packer’s remarks has been helpful in moving the church to talk about LGBT Mormons in a more positive way.
“This event was very helpful as they did release a statement,” Bowers said. “We’ll look forward to probably hopefully some more positive statements, such as the one they made about … no one should be bullied for anything. They were in agreement that everyone had a right to be in a safe space.”
But Baker was skeptical about the impact that the 150,000 signatures from outside groups like HRC would have on Mormon leadership because he doubted many of the names were from people within the church.
“I don’t think the HRC campaign is going to be that effective in affecting the church, but I definitely think it is proven effective in galvanizing a lot of people for their cause,” he said.
Baker also said the HRC campaign is energizing the core following of the church and noted new Facebook groups such as “I Love Boyd K. Packer” have emerged suggesting that the LGBT organization is bullying the church.
“I think that there’s going to be a bigger fallout of this from inside the church,” Baker said. “And from a member’s perspective, it’s going to be rally together all the other members and be like, ‘Look these people are attacking us. We’re being persecuted.’”
Sainz maintained HRC’s initiative is “not intended against Mormonism” and said millions of fair-minded Mormons “welcome LGBT people and want to encircle them in love and acceptance.”
“We don’t take exception to the Mormon religion,” Sainz said. “Our issue is with Elder Packer’s sermon and it’s with the Mormon Church hierarchy’s conduct on some of these issues. So that is an important distinction that we make.”
A change in the membership core?
As the public campaign between Packer and HRC plays out, a more under the radar effort has also been taking place with LGBT Mormons seeking change within the church — particularly in the wake of the church’s role in Prop 8.
On Sept. 19, Marlin Jensen, a general authority of the LDS Church, held a meeting in Oakland, Calif., with about 90 Mormons who reportedly voiced their disappointment over the church’s involvement in Prop 8 as well as other positions related to LGBT people.
According to Mormon writer Carol Lynn Pearson, some speakers expressed anger that Prop 8 had given Mormons “a license to hate.”
After listening to the stories, Jensen reportedly arose and through tears said, “I know that never in my life will I experience an hour quite like this one” and “to the full extent of my capacity I say that I am sorry.” Still, he never said during his remarks that he felt the LDS support for Prop 8 was an error.
The meeting itself, in addition to Jensen’s comments, was notable for many in the Mormon faith — particularly in light of the fact that apologies from church leaders are uncommon for any reason.
Baker said he thinks the event is “indicative of more of a change within the membership core.”
“The mindset of the membership just sort of realized that, ‘Wow, the church has been really rallying around Prop 8, which has been going on for two years,’” Baker said. “A lot of people are starting to sit and ask themselves, ‘What am I really supporting here?’”
Bowers also said the meeting reflects how Mormons are becoming more aware of LGBT people in their membership.
“They now know from working with them or seeing them come to church and doing their callings and wanting to do things that Mormons do in the church that we are whole, good people,” Bowers said. “Some of that attitude, I think, has changed very significantly based on the work they’ve being doing out in Oakland.”
Baker said he thinks the meeting that took place in Oakland represents how change within the church and its views on homosexuality could take place over time.
“The way the church is set up is it’s going to be something from the inside that changes it — the membership themselves over time grows to sort of recognize homosexuality more rather than just going from a top-down approach,” he said.
In the meantime, Baker plans to continue attending church service as he looks for the right man to marry while occasionally hitting the clubs on the weekend.
“I believe that they have homosexuality wrong and that over time, that might change,” Baker said. “But in the meantime, I still honestly believe in the church. And they do accept me and they don’t hate me, but it is an interesting razor-thin line to be walking.”
Featured Local Savings
Country’s first nonbinary state lawmaker participates in Gaza ceasefire hunger strike
Oklahoma state Rep. Mauree Turner is Muslim
The country’s first nonbinary state lawmaker last week participated in a hunger strike for a permanent ceasefire in the Gaza Strip that took place in front of the White House.
Oklahoma state Rep. Mauree Turner took part in the 5-day action alongside actress Cynthia Nixon, Virginia state Del. Sam Rasoul, Delaware state Rep. Madinah Wilson-Anton, New York State Assemblymember Zohran Mamdani, Michigan state Rep. Abraham Aiyash, former New York Congressional candidate Rana Abdelhamid, Muslim Girl.com Founder Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, Adalah Justice Project Director of Strategy and Communications Sumaya Awad and Linda Sarsour. The U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights, Jewish Voice for Peace, Democratic Socialists of America, IfNotNowMovement, Dream Defenders, the Institute for Middle East Understanding and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee are the organizations that either participated in the hunger strike or endorsed it.
“This is the place where you should be,” Turner told the Washington Blade on Nov. 30 while they were standing in front of the White House.
Turner is from Ardmore, Okla., and has been a member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives since 2021. They are the first Muslim person elected to the Oklahoma Legislature.
“Oklahoma is no stranger to genocide, displacement, uprooting communities — beautiful, vibrant, vulnerable communities — just because they could,” said Turner, referring to the treatment of Native Americans in what became Oklahoma during the 1800s and early 1900s. “Specifically as a Muslim and as an Oklahoman it is my duty to be here.”
The hunger strike took place nearly two months after Hamas, which the U.S. has designated a terrorist organization, launched a surprise attack against communities in southern Israel from Gaza.
The Israeli government has said roughly 1,200 people have been killed, including at least 260 people who Hamas militants murdered at an all-night music festival in a kibbutz near the border between Israel and Gaza. The Israeli government also says more than 5,000 people have been injured in the country since the war began and Hamas militants kidnapped more than 200 others.
Yarden Roman-Gat, whose gay brother, Gili Roman, spoke with the Washington Blade on Oct. 30 in D.C., is one of the 105 people who Hamas released during a truce with Israel that began on Nov. 24 and ended on Dec. 1.
The Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry says more than 15,000 people have died in the enclave since the war began. Israel after Oct. 7 cut electricity and water to Gaza and stopped most food and fuel shipments.
“It’s absolutely wild to think about what is happening to the Palestinian people in Gaza and in the West Bank,” said Turner.
Turner noted the war began two days before Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
“By October the 10th, when the world was really seeing what was happening in Gaza,” they said. “So many people who had celebrated specifically Indigenous Peoples’ Day had also sided with the Israeli government over the indigenous people of the land.”
‘The death of civilians is absolutely horrible’
Turner in response to the Blade’s question about the Israelis who militants killed on Oct. 7 emphatically said “the death of civilians is absolutely horrible.” Turner added they “cannot stress enough that when we back people into a corner, we don’t know what will happen.”
“The truth of the matter is our governments, our governmental officials do not have to put people in a corner,” said Turner.
Turner was particularly critical of the Israeli government’s actions in Gaza after Oct. 7.
“I don’t think there’s any place where a government has the power to shut off right water, food, healthcare supplies, things like that,” they said. “It’s just in doing so against a population that has 2 million people … that’s not anyone looking for equitability or justice. That is genocide against its people.”
Turner noted Republican Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt continues to publicly support Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Turner told the Blade “when we oppress people over decades and decades … we cannot, we don’t get to cherry pick” or “we don’t get to tone police or however they are fighting back to be heard, to be, to live for vibrant lives.”
“We cannot tell oppressed people how to hurt out loud,” they said, specifically referring to Palestinian people. “We can create governments that care for people from a community standpoint who are thinking creatively about how we provide aid and support and we can ask our elected officials (members Congress, President Joe Biden, state and local officials) to teach truth. We can ask them to continuously make sure that we are providing the best care and understanding of the situations at hand. We can ask them to do a ceasefire to stop sending aid to the Israeli government and emboldening their military forces.”
Climate change threatens LGBTQ resort communities
Provincetown, Cape Cod, other destinations face ‘existential’ challenge
As the world reckons with worsening impacts of climate change, some LGBTQ communities and destinations are grappling with the “existential” threat posed by the crisis.
The United Nations’ annual climate conference will take place in the United Arab Emirates through Dec. 12. LGBTQ climate activists, however, are concerned about representation at COP28 because the meeting is taking place in Dubai, which is in a country that criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual relations.
President Joe Biden on Nov. 14 delivered a statement on climate change policy during his administration. Biden spoke on the American Rescue Plan, the Fifth National Climate Assessment, new transparency about the state of the country’s climate and more.
Biden emphasized “advancing environmental justice for disadvantaged communities, because they’re the ones always left behind.” Evidence of this trend can be found in LGBTQ destinations across the country.
Julian Cyr, a gay Massachusetts state senator who represents Provincetown and other towns on Cape Cod, recognizes the state’s importance to the LGBTQ community, stating that “according to the Census, it may be the highest per capita density of LGBTQ+ people certainly in the United States, and perhaps internationally.”
Provincetown, a popular gay destination located at the tip of Cape Cod, is facing worsening storms as climate change advances. These storms reshape the natural environment as well as damage the built environment. A series of Nor’easters in 2018 flooded Provincetown, damaging homes, businesses and the town hall.
“The climate crisis is … already forcing us to do a lot of planning and reevaluation of coastal resilience of our built environment,” said Cyr.
All hope isn’t lost yet for Massachusetts destinations.
Then-Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, in 2022 introduced the Climate Roadmap, which aims for zero carbon emissions by 2050. The state also is building the country’s first offshore wind farm, Vineyard Wind.
Cyr said citizens can push for climate change legislation by making the urgency known to their local elected officials.
“This is truly existential for coastal, low-lying communities like those that I represent,” said Cyr. “It’s really important that constituents weigh in with their elected officials and make sure that they know that this issue is crucially important. I don’t know how we not solve this issue.”
Experts are seeing similar effects in nearby LGBTQ destinations, such as Cape Cod.
“One thing that we do see already is the effect of storms,” said Mark Adams, a retired Cape Cod National Seashore cartographer. “Those storms are the signal of sea level rise.”
Adams said that as a result of rising temperatures and new, intense storms, he is also starting to see damaged ecosystems, unnatural migration patterns of local wildlife, and planting-zones moving northward. Adams told the Washington Blade these changing ecological relationships may mean an uncertain future for life along the coast: the self-sustaining lifestyle and seafood could be at risk as ocean acidification puts shellfish in danger.
“If you can’t get oysters and clams, that would really change life on Cape Cod,” he said.
In addition to the damage caused by storms, Cape Cod’s natural environment is also facing the threat of littering and plastic pollution. While the area’s beaches keep tourism alive, fishing gear and marine debris washing up on the shore are growing concerns for the community.
Adams said this is where the choices individuals make to avoid plastics will make a huge difference in the future of these communities.
“There are little choices we can make to get off of the petroleum stream,” he said.
Aspen Gay Ski Week adapts to warmer winters
Aspen Gay Ski Week was the first gay ski week, and it is the largest such event in the world, and is the only non-profit gay ski week.
Rising temperatures and short winters are growing concerns for destinations like Aspen, Colo., that depend on snow, according to AspenOUT Executive Director Kevin McManamon.
“As our seasons get shorter … we have to plan for the future,” McManamon said.
Colorado has also faced increased forest fires in recent years.
The Marshall Fire in 2021 devastated the state, destroying buildings and killing two people. Increasingly dry conditions feed into these fires, which will mean more impacts on humans, nature, and infrastructure.
McManamon nevertheless said he is optimistic about Aspen Gay Ski Week’s future due to the organization’s forward thinking. One such initiative is its involvement with Protect Our Winters, an organization that advocates for protecting the environment with the support of the outdoor sports community.
“The cool part about being here in Aspen and having a great relationship with Aspen Skiing Company is that they are … on the leading edge of climate change,” said McManamon.
Stronger storms threaten Fire Island
Fire Island Pines on New York’s Fire Island has been a safe haven for the LGBTQ community since the 1950s.
Fire Island Pines Property Owners’ Association President Henry Robin notes natural disasters cause more damage in the community as opposed to those that are across the Great South Bay on Long Island because Fire Island is a “barrier island.”
“When Superstorm Sandy hit, or when a Nor’easter hits, or a hurricane hits, the brunt of the storm is first taken by the Pines,” said Robin.
Robin said “the Pines is thriving” just over 11 years since Sandy, but there is no climate change response. The federal government implemented a beach restoration project for Fire Island, and later, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers created an engineered beach for the Pines.
Robin also formed three task forces — comprised of community members — to address local concerns, many of which were climate related, according to focus groups and a survey. Robin is also hoping to introduce recycling programs and solar energy to the Pines.
US announces additional sanctions for Ugandan officials
Anti-Homosexuality Act signed on May 29
Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday announced sanctions against current and former Ugandan officials who committed human rights abuses against LGBTQ people and other groups.
“After Uganda’s flawed 2021 presidential elections, I announced a visa restriction policy targeting those believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic process in Uganda,” said Blinken in a statement. “At that time, I implored the government of Uganda to significantly improve its record and hold accountable those responsible for flawed electoral processes, violence and intimidation.”
Blinken announced “the expansion of the visa restriction policy to include current or former Ugandan officials or others who are believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic process in Uganda or for policies or actions aimed at repressing members of marginalized or vulnerable populations.”
“These groups include, but are not limited to, environmental activists, human rights defenders, journalists, LGBTQI+ persons and civil society organizers,” he said. “The immediate family members of such persons may also be subject to these restrictions.”
Blinken added the U.S. “stands by the Ugandan people and remains committed to working together to advance democracy, human rights, public health and mutual prosperity.”
“I once again strongly encourage the government of Uganda to make concerted efforts to uphold democracy and to respect and protect human rights so that we may sustain the decades-long partnership between our countries that has benefited Americans and Ugandans alike,” he said.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on May 29 signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act, which contains a death penalty provision for “aggravated homosexuality.” The State Department a few weeks later announced visa restrictions against unnamed Ugandan officials.
The Biden-Harris administration in October said it plans to remove Uganda from a program that allows sub-Saharan African countries to trade duty-free with the U.S. The White House has also issued a business advisory for Uganda in response to the Anti-Homosexuality Act.
Anti-LGBTQ provisions removed from NDAA
Transgender people seek government job consideration in India’s Maharashtra state
New bill would protect LGBTQ-owned businesses from lending discrimination
Comings & Goings
Hospitals are abusing this drug discount program
Johnson to headline gala whose leader defended Josh Duggar
PHOTOS: GMCW Holiday Show
Endocrine Society corrects misinformation about gender affirming care at GOP debate
Hearing postponed for gay D.C. gym owner charged with distributing child porn
Queen Latifah among Kennedy Center honorees welcomed to White House
Sign Up for Weekly E-Blast
Politics3 days ago
Johnson to headline gala whose leader defended Josh Duggar
Photos4 days ago
PHOTOS: GMCW Holiday Show
Politics1 day ago
Endocrine Society corrects misinformation about gender affirming care at GOP debate
District of Columbia4 days ago
Hearing postponed for gay D.C. gym owner charged with distributing child porn