Dec.: Self-Discovery

Thanks to Abe for posting the poll questions I suggested and the accompanying theme. I hope people got something out of the results; as for me, I was quite intrigued. I posed those questions because I'm interested in seeing how people first realize their sexuality and subsequently identify themselves, something I'm finding difficult to do. If someone asked me if I were gay, bi or straight, I really wouldn't know how to answer. (As for the importance of having an answer, that's where the last poll question came from.)

Some might wonder why I'm finding it so hard to figure out such a basic part of myself. But as you probably know, it's not a matter of checking a box and moving on. Sexuality is a spectrum, and I have found both fluidity and ambiguity on mine.

When did I first know I was different? 'When did I not know' may be a more appropriate question. I was always different, dressing up in costumes, sporting a very unique style, doing things my own way. At the same time, I also clung to authority and never had trouble following the rules. I was a good, precocious, and odd boy.

At fifteen yrs-old at scout camp, I first realized I had a same-sex attraction. It was like, "I'm flirting with a guy" (lamely, but still). I racked my memory and concluded I was gay: As a child in a store with my mom, I would sometimes fall behind as I found myself stopped, looking at the model on the poster marking the boys' section. I remembered the boys in my kindergarten class, J---- and C----, whom I had always been mysteriously drawn to. In elementary school there was a boy with whom I waited for a bus once a week; I came to look forward to that day of the week, but passed off my protective feelings for him as 'paternalistic'.

But the reality was not that simple, because there were girls I had had my eyes on, too. M---- in kindergarten, A--- as an early-grader, and A----- in late elem. school.

Junior high brought hormones and crushes, on both a girl and guys (though I didn't use that term then).

Today, my physical attractions vary--I sometimes dream of gals, sometimes of guys. Emotionally, I connect with guys, more or less, though I relate with girls as well. Socially, I have wonderful friendships with both genders. And as for the stomach-bound butterflies, thinking of females can make my breaths somehow deeper (the right word? maybe 'tighter' is better), but when the right male enters the room, there can be a sort of--how to put it--yearning that I feel in my gut. It's like having a straight mind and a gay core, if that makes any sense (I'm sure it doesn't).

I suppose my best--well, only--option is to give myself time to figure out who I am.

Anyway, thanks to everyone who has responded to the poll and theme!


Checking In (and Out?)

Thank you to everyone who has expressed their concern and support. You are so very kind. I am well but haven't posted lately mainly because of a new and more rigorous trimester in school.

It has been hectic lately.

A positive: it was so nice to put some faces with names at the Matis Christmas Fireside! Thanks to those who organized it, and to everyone who shared their abundant talent with us (Scott and Sarah!). Also so nice to meet some new friends there.

Beyond that, we continue to have a healthy (well, you know what I mean) dose of contention in our home. Probably not helped by your humble correspondent, who suffers from a male version of PMS, it would seem. And that is not helped by the unrelenting ignorance of and harassment from my sister. And that is not helped by the homophobia-affirming dogmas cherished by her dad, uncle, and church. I had to escape from it all, so I started my car and headed for...the library. (Take that, Establishment.) And it is from that locale that I am writing this now, putting off the homework that menacingly awaits me in my overstuffed backpack... which I dutifully brought along. (Yes, I'm quite the rebel, I know.)

...And due to that last and most time-consuming inconvenience, I can't make any promises about the fluency of my posts for a while. Right now, I hardly have the time to sleep or eat, so blogging , I'm afraid, must be bumped down a couple slots on the list of priorities. If things go downhill, I'll let you know, but in the meantime, I'll try to read a few blogs here and there, and thanks again for your kindness!



Belief: All of us have the Light of Christ that helps us distinguish right and wrong.
Belief: The Spirit abides with the worthy and withdraws when offended.
Problem: How to tell the promptings of the Spirit apart from our own emotions.
* * *
Lately, I have been feeling uneasy, like there's thick, black smoke in my stomach.

I have also, lately, been leaning toward a life path that would remove me from the Church (not that I plan to do anything in the near future, whatever my choice). So am I on the wrong path? Is the Spirit telling me that I need to stay in the Church and remain celibate or marry a woman? Is this guilt, the Lord's way of telling me I need to repent and 'straight'en up?

It's hard to say, because when I change my thought processes and think in terms of temple marriage/celibacy, the feeling doesn't go away.

Then is it internalized homophobia? I've been dealing with a lot of homophobia and rejection from my family recently (it's worse than my last post suggested), so maybe this nauseous feeling is an effect of that.

Or, maybe this is just frivolous navel-gazing. Maybe I just need to eat better/exercise more, or be with friends more often, or buy boxers with bigger waist bands.

Am I unworthy of the companionship of the Spirit? I am reminded of the REM lyric, "I don't know what I've done, but it doesn't feel right" ("The Worst Joke Ever", Around the Sun)--and yet I don't have any major sins in my life. I'm far from perfect, but I try to do the right things, I try to follow Christ. Every night, I read my scriptures and pray to Heavenly Father...and still I go to bed with a sick feeling in my stomach, and wake up with the same feeling.

Scott's post "Eternal Salivation" comes to mind. Maybe this feeling is just a reaction that has been ingrained and hammered into me by the culture/family I was born into. I was raised mainly by my dad (about whose hurtful prejudices I have already gone into great detail) and my mom, who recently asked of homosexual intercourse, "Doesn't it just make your skin crawl? Doesn't it make you sick?" So, would it be any surprise that I should feel sick about being gay, seeing as I grew up in a home, family, church, culture, and society where homosexuality is considered sick?

Alternately, perhaps an anxiety disorder is the culprit...Then again, maybe all of these explanations--internalized homophobia, conditioning, mental disorders--are just ways of trying to deflect guilt...raw, throbbing, leaden guilt. Scarlet guilt, in fact.
* * *
Please note that I am not speaking of homosexuality in general. I am not at all convinced that homosexuality is in categorical opposition to God's plan (a topic I have blogged about before). I'm not saying homosexuality or homosexual acts are necessarily, intrinsically wrong--I'm just thinking that maybe they're wrong for me. Maybe, after all, I'm just a nice, straight Mormon boy who has been deceived by the world and the devil and his own thinking. Maybe God is trying to tell that boy, "Wake up, stupid! You're not gay--I have assigned you a wife and kids and a life of service in the Church!" But, whether that's the case or not (and my sexuality is at this point so ambiguous I don't honestly know if it is or isn't), a part of me doesn't want to be that nice, straight Mormon boy who becomes a missionary and then a husband and then a dad and then a grandpa and then a bishop and then an old man wondering what could have been had he lived his life not according to the expectations of other people, but following his heart and dreams. And maybe that's wrong. And maybe that's why I feel sick.

I don't really know. But I am praying to be able to know.

To clarify, I'm not saying that I want to rebel against God. Quite the opposite, in fact. I want to live my life in harmony with God's will. So, I'm trying to figure out what God wants me to do, and to be perfectly honest, if I said I'd be eager to marry a woman, I'd be lying. So I hope that's not God's plan for me--even though I've been told it is since my earliest Primary days.

New Moon Response

Last night--technically this morning--at 3 am, I watched New Moon, part two of the Twilight series. I came with high expectations (knowing that this project had a bigger budget and better director than its indy, low-budget predecessor), and they were fulfilled completely. It really had something for everyone: moviegoers will find humor, action, and sci-fi/fantasy-appeal--much more than in the first film--in addition to the underlying romance.

Speaking of which, fans need not fear that the Romeo & Juliette-inspired love story will be lost amidst special effects and Italian altercations. Edwardians can be assured that they will see their icon as frequently as can be expected given his...location, and Jacobites--well, this is your moment, as you well know. New Moon is Jacob's time in the sun, and boy, does he shine! No need to buy over-priced junk food, folks--the beefcake is flowing in Theater 6.

As for my own team affiliation, I have always been a loyal pro-Edward Twi-guy, but since the movies have come out, I'm seeing things differently. Dare I say I am defecting--no, converting--to Team Jacob? I guess I'm beginning to see the story in a different light--one in which Edward is a controlling jerk, and Jacob is a passionate best friend who seems so good for Bella.

Besides, the scenes featuring Edward toward the end were spectacularly disappointing in at least one aspect: whereas the audience had minutes before drooled over a buff Jacob standing shirtless in the rain (was it me, or was steam actually rising off his muscles?), Edward's chest was unimpressive, sickly-looking, and a tad on the hairy side. Nothing against a little chest hair, but in the book we are led to believe in an Edward whose body resembles cold marble, a stone. And a stone usually doesn't have hair, unless moss or lichen is growing on it. Unfortunately for Pattinson, that is pretty much what it looked like.

Why, Robert? Why couldn't you have gone to the gym once in a while? We know that the once-scrawny Taylor practically lived in the weight room in between the filmings of the shows, so throwing in the occasional bench press doesn't seem like it would have been too much to ask. You're wondering why all of the Edward supporters are flocking to the Jacob banner? Here's a hint: werewolves really are too sexy for their shirts. One moment of unchecked passion and RIIIIP--off come the clothes. You bet Stephanie Meyer understands teenage girls--and they fantasize about more than dating a stone-cold lump of marble, just so you know.

All in all, a fantastic show, and well worth the price of entry. The humor, the kisses (or near-kisses), the flawless representation of the book, all confirmed that the anticipation and wait was not in vain in the least. Now I just need to find a blog widget that will count down the seconds until Eclipse comes out.


A Bitter Reminder

Yesterday my dad came over to pick up my sister, and I happened to be watching the greatest program on television, The Oprah Winfrey Show. He also brought a chainsaw over...to cut down a small dead tree in our back yard. While he was out doing manly things, I talked to my mom as we watched Oprah together--yesterday was the much-awaited Sarah Palin interview--and then Mom abruptly said, "I think you're going with your dad this weekend."

"Am I?" I thought, but instead said, "Why?"

She answered, "'Cause it's good for you to see him, and I think he's a good influence on you right now."

I laughed out loud: my mom and I are pretty much on the same page, and she knows better than I do that her ex-husband is a fanatical bigot. I reminded her of this and said that I probably didn't have the emotional wherewithal to handle such a weekend. But she didn't give in, and we went back to our fix.

Dad left, and about fifteen minutes later I received the following text message from him, which was clearly intended for my mother. Please remember that just as the sins of the father are not on the head of the son, neither are the grammatical errors.

why do you encourage [FLeeS] to watch that gay oprah crap? i wish you would quit facilitating and encouraging that bull s___ its gonna be on your head!

Of course, I could go through and point out the obvious absurdity of this message, but frankly it doesn't merit that kind of thought. Better to simply chuckle and move on, right?

...Except, of course, for the fact that he is my dad, and as a dependent teenager I can only 'move' so far. So, I took some deep breaths and set to lemonade-making, sending this reply:

Hi Dad, you accidentally sent this to me. Please trust me that a tv show can't make someone gay (esp. since the guest was Sarah Palin, which I thought you'd like).
Btw, thanks for chopping the tree!

(Yes, I realize I'm a bit of a hypocrite, now that I see my own mechanics mistakes...)

This response was an appropriate one, I hope, because it educated directly but respectfully. It also pointed out the irony in my dad, a rabid Republican, being upset because his son was watching Sarah Palin, of all people, promote her book. And the last line was fun because I offered an olive branch but also cheekily hinted at the symbolism the chainsaw suggested. Whenever he comes to our house, he chops, tears, destroys. He gains his power from division and seeks to divide people rather than bring them together--even when it's his own family.

His delayed response was this:

sorry buddy im just really worried about you and im struggling with your mom i really dislike oprah and some of her topics and oppinions use good judgement about those shows u know i like palin :) love ya

I appreciated this, but please don't let the smiley face, love ya, half-hearted apology, Palin vouch, or disarming disregard for punctuation fool you. His heart is in the right place, I think, but this was a bitter reminder of the kind of ignorance we're up against here. This is someone who, we must surmise, doggedly clings to the irrational belief that an axis of evil consisting loosely of my mom, Oprah, and the Media has turned me gay (even though he has heard his bishop brother declare that the roots of homosexuality are deep and as yet not completely understood).

If nothing else, I was glad to have intercepted the message and spared my mother such harsh meanness. But then I reconsidered: earlier she had claimed he was a 'good influence' on me, and now she needed to see reality. Needless to say, when I forwarded this to my mom she freely amended her position, and consequently, I am going to my grandma's house this weekend. Hee hee, Dad--thanks for playing right into my clever ploy...

Really, though, I was both shocked and hurt, deeply: Why'd he have to bring Oprah into this? Leave my lady alone, mister!



A Radical Change(?)

Today I went to church at my ward for the first time in some time. I was asked to sing at our stake's Priesthood Preview; the group practiced today at 8 am, so I came to that and then went to church.

It was good to be back. I felt the Spirit during the Sacrament and Sunday School and thought to myself, "Could I give this up?" For me there is a peace that comes from this culmination of the repentance/forgiveness process. Whatever struggles I might have with the Church, the Atonement is real for me, so what would I do without my membership? Obviously the excommunicated cannot partake of the Sacrament; does this mean that a gay member who chooses to love the person (s)he's meant to can never have access to the Atonement? I don't know if I can believe that--and yet, isn't the Atonement (and therefore the Sacrament) the only way to be forgiven? Some might suggest that the Sacrament is a beautiful symbol but not strictly necessary for forgiveness, but isn't the Sacrament required to renew the covenants we break by sinning?

{Any thoughts there?}

* * *

In Sunday School the lesson was on continuing revelation, and we had a very good discussion about the decision to let black members hold the Priesthood. Our teacher basically said, "You know, you guys have no problem accepting this [policy] because, for you, this is how it's always been. But because it was such a radical change, it was a hard time for the Church. And someday, there might be a radical change [in Church policy] in your lifetime." He also said that "President Kimball had a friend of African descent, and it bothered him that this friend wasn't able to have the Priesthood. So he went to the Lord and prayed about it. This is how revelation happens: there's a problem, and the Prophet goes to the Lord about it, and when the time is right, the answer is given. Some anti-Mormons would say that 'revelations' come when they're convenient--Word of Wisdom, polygamy, etc. But revelation is given when there's a problem and the Prophet asks the Lord how to fix it." This gave me some hope for "a radical change" in Church policy related to homosexuality in my lifetime...

But then again, how, really, can I entertain even the idea that such a "radical change" could be possible? As radical a change as Official Declaration 2 was, one condoning homosexuality would be many times more revolutionary because, unlike previous radical changes (except for maybe polygamy), it would necessitate a completely new understanding of fundamental doctrine. How could the membership of the Church swallow such a pronouncement when one of the Church's primary aims is to make sure everyone goes to the Temple to marry someone of the opposite sex? Suggesting that some other basic family type* might fit into the Plan of Salvation would mean that God's pattern for happiness isn't universal. Can you see the Church saying, "Our way leads to happiness for almost all of God's children"? I can't.

And yet, we see what seem to be exceptions. We see the phrase "individual adaption" in 'The Family: A Proclamation'. We see gay people who insist they cannot be happily married to someone of the opposite sex. So isn't it possible that Heavenly Father has a plan for those people who don't seem to fit into the Plan as we currently understand it--such as His homosexual children?

I would say that if revolutionary change seems unlikely, we should consider with hope and prayer the possibility of evolutionary change. For all its flaws, the Church statement supporting LGBT nondiscrimination was an evolutionary step in the right direction--and one that would have seemed utterly impossible a few decades ago.

*Plural marriages don't count because they maintain the male-female ideal of marriage. (There are multiple people in the marriage, but the sexual bonds are strictly heterosexual.)

By the way, I think this blog needs some remodeling. Any ideas for the makeover?


Another Rough Conversation

Yesterday my dad told me to meet him and his brother--a newly-made bishop--and I could tell right off that I would be the subject matter of a long and grueling discussion. I went, and it was a grueling, often painful, two hours, though some good may have come of it. For one thing, my uncle grew up with the same prejudices as my dad but has softened his stance since becoming a bishop: he now agrees that same gender attraction (the term he insists on using) is real, not chosen, and possibly incurable. It was good for my dad to see that, and was the most positive part of the ordeal.

On the other hand, some very hurtful things were said. After much talking my uncle said, "Our relationship depends on the choices you make." He then said he'll always care for me, but subtly suggested that he wouldn't always love me. And though this may not be the exact wording, he also said, "And sometimes people don't want gay people [whom he defined as people having physical homosexual relations] around their kids...and there's some truth to that. There's disobedience. And once you have a physical relationship with a man, it doesn't matter whether he's forty years old, or ninety years old, or six years old--it's all about the physical gratification, the pleasure." (Afterward I called my aunt--an aunt on the other side of the family and my biggest (only?) source of real family support--and bawled as I related this conversation to her. She was very sympathetic, loving, and understanding--"You shouldn't have to hear that," "That makes my blood boil," and "You know that's not true, right?" It really helped to get it off my chest, and to feel her love and compassion.)

My uncle believes that "SSA" is not a disease or a condition but a temptation like gambling, drinking, or committing adultery. He insists on using the term "same sex attraction" because he feels the word "gay"--which I made the mistake of using a couple of times--describes purely the action. In his mind, SSA = feeling, gay = action. I tried to explain that celibate/Temple-married members of the Church sometimes describe themselves as "gay", but he said this is a terminological mistake. And why, you might ask, did he care so much about this? Because the distinction enables him to care for "people with same gender attraction" and still hold on to his prejudice towards "gay people". Because I didn't (and don't) accept this--and because I do accept myself and my feelings--he said several times, "It sounds to me like you've already given up."

"You need to fight this thing like you would fight a war," my uncle the bishop said, which makes sense if you consider homosexuality to be a temptation. When I pointed out that the casualties of this war are often ourselves--gay Mormons who end up committing suicide because they ultimately can't change themselves--he said, "It's not like suicide and living the gay lifestyle are your only two options." So, following Abe's advice, I told him I know I have a range of options, and that these include Temple marriage and celibacy. Surprisingly--and then again, not so surprisingly--he was strongly opposed to celibacy, saying, "Don't you believe that your children are up in heaven watching you, rooting for you, and their children, and their children, and their children? Don't you believe that they're all up there, hoping you'll make the right choice?"

Note: The following contains content some may consider explicit.

Notwithstanding, he brought up subjects that have given me cause for much thought (both before the conversation and after it), such as the concept of my children watching me from heaven, and the eternal consequences of whatever choice I make. Another is this (and again, the precise wording may have been a bit different, but I have attempted a very close rendering):

"The anus is simply not designed for sex--the vagina is. The anus is not meant to house the penis--the vagina is. A woman can sleep with a man every day of a [sexual] lifetime and not have any physical problems. A man can sleep with a woman every day for however many years he lives and not have any physical problems from it. But a man who sleeps with a man--AIDS is
only one of the diseases you can get. A man sleeps with a man...and it'll get you eventually."

This is a real issue for me--how a woman's body and a man's body naturally complement each other, but at the end of the day the same cannot honestly be said of two men's bodies. Sure, people can get STIs from having sex with members of the opposite sex, but the fact is that two monogamous partners of opposite genders can have a physical relationship that will not endanger either's health. And anyone--gay or straight--can see that the anus truly was not meant for intercourse. For one thing, it is a hotbed for infections and disease. For another, anal sex is often painful and frankly, messy. (Of course, I don't have any first-hand experience in any kind of sex, but what I report here is taken from the experience of others.)

These things--the nitty gritty details of homosexual intercourse--have always been a principal hang-up for me. While the idea of heterosexual sex sometimes makes me uneasy as well, there
usually aren't any lubricants involved. There is no need for oral dams. And in the case of a pair devoted exclusively to each other, condoms aren't necessary either.

So I'm curious, what do you think? Do you agree with my uncle? How do you respond to a claim that while hetero sex enables life, gay sex eventually ends it? Do you find the homosexual sex act unnatural, as opposed to the heterosexual sex act?

I suppose some might advise me to ignore the details for now and "cross that bridge when I come to it". But in this case, the details are important. Sometimes the small things are windows into the big things.

Please do note that I have enabled anonymous commenting to help facilitate a direct dialogue and a straightforward exchange of ideas. (And yes, I did see the joke opportunity there:)


Virtually Normal and Thoughts So Far

This post is not explicit, but deals with topics that may make some uncomfortable.

Last night I bought gay conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan's book on the politics of homosexuality, Virtually Normal. Although I am not very far into it, I can tell that I am going to like it, and that some of you may be interested in it, too. Some of the points he brings up have been discussed on this and other MoHo blogs, such as the Bible's stance on homosexuality and the paradox of how the Church (Sullivan refers to his church, the Roman Catholic Church, but it applies to the LDS Church as well) says/has said that being a homosexual is not in itself a moral wrong, but carrying it out--an extension of the former--is.

It's a very interesting read so far. In the book's introduction Sullivan speaks of homosexuality in general, and reading it brought up my own uncertainties about my orientation. Says he:

"Although there is an understandable desire to divide the world starkly into heterosexual desire and its opposite, most of us, I'd guess, have confronted the possibility at some time in our lives of the possibility of our own homosexuality. [Is that all this is about? I wonder. Am I not gay after all, but rather going through a normal and probably common part of adolescence by merely confronting a possibility?] There is something of both attractions in all of us, to begin with. [Or is this why I still wonder if I might be bisexual or even straight?] For the majority, it is resolved quite early; our society forces such a resolution. Except for a few who seem to retain throughout their lives a capacity for attraction to both sexes, for most of us the issue is largely resolved before the teenage years set in. On this, both experience and empirical study agree." (Emphasis mine.)

The last bit really capped it off. In my case, since I am still trying to figure my sexuality out, the issue of knowing whether I am gay, straight, or bisexual was clearly not "resolved before the teenage years set in"...or was it? I am not a Kinsey 6 guy who can honestly state he has never felt romantic--perhaps even sexual--attractions to a female. I have never claimed to be 100% gay, and have made mention of the fact several times. Furthermore, when I first began puberty, I didn't think of guys in a romantic sense at all, nor was I nervous around them--no sweaty palms or increased heart rate that I can recall. Still, this was more or less true with both genders--I was generally comfortable around boys and girls.

I remember the first time it even crossed my mind that I might be gay: I was in junior high (between about 13 and 15 years old--certainly not "before the teenage years [had] set in"), and had just left choir (oh, the irony!), making my way to the cafeteria. I arrived at the end of the lunch line in time to hear two guys--whom I had never hitherto met or known--whispering, "Frank Scarlet is gay" (except, of course, that they said my then actual name). They didn't know I was there, and when they realized I had heard them, they turned around and continued in line. I didn't think anything of it--I dismissed it in the same moment I heard it, much as I would have had they suggested I had wings or a third arm, and the 'accusation' didn't bother me at all.

Later, a couple months before turning sixteen years old, I was at Scout Camp talking to a guy whom I had been drawn to since moving into the ward several years earlier. We were talking around the campfire when all of the sudden, something clicked in my head and I realized, "I'm flirting with a guy." And I more or less was, in my own pitifully lame way. It's clear in hindsight that I had been attracted to him from the very start.

As I began to wonder if I were gay, I considered the sexual thoughts I'd had. Certainly they were heterosexual in nature--I really didn't know about gay sex, nor did I have any real concept as to what a physical union between two men might be like--but I remembered that in these thoughts--I hesitate to use the word "fantasies", but that's basically what we're talking about here--the male involved was usually not myself. In fact, I realized (or rationalized?), I tended to focus more on the male, who was usually one of the muscular young men that I was friends with or knew from school--boys, I later concluded, that I was attracted to (though I didn't realize it at the time).

That was my thought process. As for my previous crushes (or pseudo-crushes) on girls, I determined that though gay, I was not blind, and I had merely construed the girls I thought cute as objects of my affection. I told myself that I had not really had feelings for them, or if I had, it was the tiny bisexual part of myself, which was nothing compared to the gay part of myself.

Looking back, I'm not sure how valid this was. Was I simply making sense of reality, or was I bending and twisting reality to accomodate what I wanted? When I read the above quote in Virtually Normal, I thought that if I really am gay, then perhaps homosexual attractions would have manifested themselves long before I was 14, 15 or 16 years old. On the other hand, in hindsight I think there were several boys to whom I was attracted even though I did not realize it.

Is that even possible?
Or do you agree with Sullivan?

Some of you, I'm sure, will take issue with Sullivan's claim (which he claims "both experience and empirical study" back). In our community in particular, it is not uncommon to remain closeted--even to oneself--for several decades. But is there, perhaps, an awareness somewhere between complete obliviousness and full consciousness? And must someone attain at least this level of awareness--of having "the issue...largely resolved before the teenage years set in"--in order to truly be gay?

Or am I, as usual, grossly over-thinking this?..

Thanks in advance for anything you would like to offer. I look forward to reading any and all comments--please don't worry about being scorned or sounding bad. All ideas are welcome, and I hope that, like this blogging community at large, this blog is a place where you can feel safe sharing your thoughts. :)


"When There's Hate At Home"

It's a dramatic moment in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Helm's Deep is being overtaken by orcs and 'super-orcs', all is gore and chaos, and King Theoden, in a moment of despair, wonders, "What can men do against such reckless hate?"
Sometimes I ask the same question. How do we respond to people who seem to be possessed by an irrational prejudice...especially when "these people" are our people--members of our family?
Moreover, where does this "reckless hate" come from? I once read somewhere that there is homosexuality in every species, but Homo sapiens is the only animal that scourges its homosexual members. But why? I suppose homophobia is passed down from generation to generation like most forms of bigotry. But where does it really originate? Some might point to religion, but where did religious leaders get their homophobia? An unease with anal sex? Ultimately, the answer is probably ignorance. But how to educate when the lesson appears to contradict the dogma accepted (and used) by the haters?
I am reminded by Sting's "Englishman in New York" lyrics: "It takes a man to suffer ignorance and smile / Be yourself no matter what they say".
Here are some insights I found on the subject of hatred, which I present as answers to some of my troubling questions of late. Indeed, some of these quotes are sadly applicable.
Q: How is it that so many good Christian people--ordinarily full of love and goodwill--can suddenly fill with hate and venom (e.g., when it comes to homosexuals)?
A: "We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love
one another." ~Jonathan Swift
Q: So is religion to blame for this intolerance?
A: "Ultimately, America's answer to intolerance is diversity, the very diversity which our heritage of religious freedom has inspired." ~Robert F. Kennedy
Q: Why do some of my family members stick to their prejudices so aggressively?
A: "I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain." ~James Baldwin
Q: Then is there no hope that these hard feelings will soften?
A: "It is to the credit of human nature that...it loves more readily than it hates. Hatred, by a gradual and quiet process, will even be transformed to love..." ~Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter (an apt book to be quoted on this blog)
Q: What, then, must we do as people who sometimes find ourselves on the receiving end of hatred?
A: "We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies." ~Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
And one of personal favorites, an anonymous quote:
"It is better to be hated for who you are, than to be loved for someone you are not."


Still Troubled

Now that I have written not one but two blog posts bemoaning how woefully wrong my dad was a few days ago, the conversation still disturbs me--and this time, it's not the wrongness of it that bothers me, but the nagging possibility of its rightness.

What if he's right, I wonder, and I really would be ruining myself by pursuing a gay relationship and (for lack of a better word) lifestyle? What if I would be handing in my ticket of eternal progression, effectively getting off at this sorry stop as the rest of the Church rolls on toward the Celestial Kingdom and beyond?

"I had a cousin," my dad said Monday, "who went on a mission, came home, and decided to...follow this lifestyle. Long story short? He got AIDS, and in his dying moments he basically said 'I screwed up.' Near the end he was trying to crawl back to the Church, but it was too little, too late." (Dad did admit that he wasn't actually present at the time, but maintained that this is what happened.)

This concerned parent's warning continues to haunt me. I see myself on my deathbed--either as a young man with AIDS or as an old man with the crippling ailment of regret--confessing that 'I screwed up', but also knowing that the chance for change is past.

By the way--on a happier note: three cheers for the success of the Matthew Shepard Act! A great step forward.


Frustration (and Resolve), Part II

Thanks for your comments and support on my last post. They have helped me a lot--thank you! Regarding Seminary, I should again point out that luckily the teacher is just a substitute, so it's not a long-term problem. I hope. (My real Seminary teacher is sick right now; he kindly avoids the homosexuality issue because I politely let him know that homophobic teaching nearly drove me from Seminary last year.) What really got me is that the man was more or less in line with Church teachings: Regarding the degeneration of society, "Satan has many tricks...In the nineties, his big tool was homosexuality..." "The world says it's okay for two boys to like each other..." (Classmates grimace and whisper, "...so disgusting!") "...While we have the Proclamation to the World..." (Gestures to giant poster of The Family: A Proclamation to the World hanging on wall.) You could tell that the guy owned a dog-eared, highlighted and underlined copy of The Miracle of Forgiveness. Had there been a General Authority in the room, I strongly doubt the teacher would have been called on his remarks.

Beyond that: A while ago I read a nice piece of psycho-babble about writers and "the ruminating personality". Apparently, many creative types who have ruminating personalities tend to be good writers, but depressed ones as well. I thought it applied to me in some ways because I am a cyclothymic writer who does tend to dwell on things. Today has been no different: any time my mind hasn't been occupied, it has been filled with frustration and arguments and anger about what went down yesterday. Writing these ruminations down has been very therapeutic, so here goes, once more.

The frustration, for me and for many of us, is that frankly we are ahead of our time. To be brutally honest, talking to my dad about being gay was like trying to talk to someone from the Middle Ages about quantum physics. In order to really accept me--not just deny or 'forget' about "the issue"--my dad (and my family, for that matter) would have to learn so much... He would have to understand homosexuality, the Church's various positions and actions regarding homosexuality, both personal and prophetic revelation, the teachings of the Bible, and so many other things.

But he is so stuck in his thinking, so fixated on what he thinks is right, that we can't get past even the most fundamental things. I would try to talk to him about metaphorical black holes and parallel universes, but he is convinced that the Sun rotates around the Earth. In his mind, there is no room for negotiation or reconsideration: he is extremely obstinate, and seems to have both common sense ('Come on, do you really think the Earth is moving? You're standing on it, and you see the Sun move across the sky!') and the religious establishment (which persecuted many legendary early scientists and astronomers for their progressive 'celestial' thinking) on his side. I am clearly the heretic who violates the laws of nature, common sense, and God; he is unmovable in his surety--completely closed to other possibilities--so how could we possibly move forward?

That is the root of the frustration that I--and no doubt many of you--feel. Alan, I will make a point of reading Scrum Central to see how things go with your dad. Maybe I'll be able to borrow some of the techniques you use. Abe, thanks for sharing about your parents--that does give me hope. I can only imagine how your parents felt about your adopting such an alien faith and life, but as you suggested, I bet it's similar to how my parents feel. And David, thanks for your encouragement. I think you're quite right: giving people a personal connection--someone they love is gay--helps make an abstract concept a very real, tangible part of their lives. Thanks all!

Anyway, the bottom line is this:

Ultimately, I cannot live my life by the ignorance and prejudice of other people or groups.

In other words, what I've really been wanting to say to narrow-minded people is this: Your stupidity does not determine my reality!



...so intense it would bring me to tears if I weren't furious.

A lot has been going on lately. The day started off in first hour Seminary. A substitute teacher gave an off-the-cuff lesson on how the swine flu epidemic was designed by conspiring men and facilitated by caffeinated soda, and how airplane exhaust causes other outbreaks of sickness ('How do I know these things? My wife is in health and wellness.' Talk to me after class about how you can buy our amazing health smoothies, or sign yourselves up for our pyramid scheme today!...). He then proceeded to somehow launch into homosexuality. It was like, "Running out of things to say? Fill the extra time with a perennial favorite: ripping on the gays!" A wonderful way to begin the day: music and the spoken venom.

After school, my dad (he's not my bio-dad, and I don't usually live with him, but he's like a dad) was waiting to take my sister. Before they left, though, he sat down with my mother and I to talk about "you-know-what". Apparently my sister told him; I expected as much.

Ignorance does not feel like a strong enough word--I would sooner describe his state as a dogged, almost fanatical commitment to irrationality. The man was in a frenzy: he refused to even consider that sexuality might not be a choice, and when I asked him why someone would choose to be hated and despised, his answer was, "Why do people kill people? Look at serial killers..."

Then there was a heated theological debate that touched on Biblical references to homosexuality, sin, modern revelation through prophets, personal revelation, and the Church's position(s). Facts, logic, common sense...these meant nothing in the face of such vehement bigotry (which, in his defense, he was raised with). Desperate, I tried a different route--telling Dad that I had prayed and fasted myself and had had to find my own answers--but it was equally futile. I was told in very plain language that if I "chose this lifestyle", I would destroy myself, physically, through AIDS, and/or spiritually, through sin. I would be giving up happiness in this life and the next. I could not go to heaven--much less the Celestial Kingdom--and would ultimately burn in hell. "Sin against nature" was a frequently-used term, as were "abomination", "off-the-wall thoughts", and "temptations". The issue was not even homosexual actions--it was just being gay. The thoughts alone, I was told, would ruin every aspect of my life and being.

In the end, I was told that I was loved no matter what. For this, at least, I am extremely grateful. Bless him for that. As for the rest, well... I have to go on "a few" dates with girls, go at things with an open mind, this sort of thing. In short, my parents think that my dating a few cute girls will turn me straight. (Actually, my mom more or less accepts me as I am, but she is at the same time hopeful that I am just...confused.)

I am lucky to have the knowledge that I do. I am lucky to have the support of people not blinded by insane bigotry. I am lucky to know myself. I am lucky to still be accepted by my family.

The concept of re-orientation is alluring (not the least to the parents and loved ones of gay people), but the failure of re-orientation is obvious.

People wonder why gay Mormons are killing themselves off? People wonder why LGBT teens are four times more likely to commit suicide than straight teens?

The only thing I wonder about is how people can still be so ignorant. It is frightening, and to me it is a strong case for coming out. The only way to educate and hopefully change the prejudiced, as I see it, is to show them that someone they know and love is gay. At this point--and this is more or less my answer to Abe's question "Where are you in your journey?"--I am a few straight dates away from coming out. Unless the sparks fly during this, "the Great, Straight Experiment", I am finished. I am finished living a lie. I am finished being afraid to be myself. I am finished with Seminary. I am finished with being a pathetically spineless people-pleaser, losing myself in my efforts to placate others. I am finished trying to sit on a fence that is painfully sharp--jagged, even.

If I were someone reading this blog, going through the archives, my response would probably be, "Poop or get off the pot, you wretch." And my answer to such an imperative, if it were posed to me today, would simply be, I am finished. I am almost finished. I'm just now washing my hands, in fact.


Thoughts from the Blogging Break

As most MoHo bloggers can attest, it is sometimes therapeutic--even, perhaps, vitally important--to take a step back, forget about one's inner-conflict and moral dilemmas, and let the MoHosphere carry on without the addition of one's thoughtful, though undeniably frivolous, insights. This has, at least, been the case for me, and I have enjoyed a several week-long blogging hiatus facilitated by computer problems and my own need for solitary reflection. Unfortunately, I had far more of the former than the latter.

During my virtual absence, some of my thoughts have crystallized while others have only become more muddied. Some of the newer developments:
  • Abe invited us to blog about "the M word", and although September is long past, better late than never. As I have grown up my only real instruction on the subject has been the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet, which states: "Before marriage, do not do anything to arouse the powerful emotions that must be expressed only in marriage...Do not arouse those emotions in your own body." To me, this is a polite yet straightforward way of forbidding self-stimulation, and throughout adolescence I have more or less heeded this counsel. There was only one period when I was relatively young and innocent when I made a sort of experimental attempt, but that was far from seminal--and it was the last time I tried anything of that nature. That's right, I don't self-stimulate. Maybe that's why I'm so 'crotch'ety. Maybe that's why I'm a prudish 'jack'@$$. I dunno, but really, I don't feel the need to do it (perhaps because I've never really done it). Is this normal, I sometimes wonder? I maintain that I am not asexual.
  • I recently--and somewhat reluctantly--submitted my story to the Foundation for Reconciliation. If you are interested, it can be read at http://ldsapology.org/Teenager.htm . (Some of the formatting didn't come through, but you get the general idea at least.) Perhaps it was foolish of me to get involved with this effort, but my hope is that the sharing of my story on a broader stage will have a positive impact on someone, somewhere.
  • Via Facebook, I have been talking with a fellow MoHo blogger over the past few weeks, and he has shared some good advice with me. We talked about missions, marriage, and patriarchal blessings, and I found our thinking to be in some areas rather similar. Anyway, in communicating my thoughts to someone else, I had a couple of realizations about them. A mission, for me, is still a possibility, but I hesitate because 1) it seems a little hypocritical to try to convert people to a church I may soon leave, and 2) the Temple. As I said to my friend, if I go to the Temple, I want to know I'll be able to return. Any thoughts on this feeling?
  • Speaking of Facebook, I was surprised to see, one day, that my FLeeS Facebook account had been shut down! I suppose they don't like people creating accounts under pseudonyms...oops. But get this: there are now three other people going by the name of "Frank Lee Scarlet" on Facebook. What's going on? I don't know, but check out this page: one fine fall afternoon, I'm nonchalantly reading this article--that happens to be about gays and the LDS Church--on Deseret News online when I see a commenter calling himself 'Frank Lee Scarlet'! It's a bit too much for coincidence, if you ask me. (Just to clarify, it was not this Frank Lee Scarlet.)
  • My sister now knows. As in, she knows. More on that front later.


Not Just Hypothetical

This blog, I realize, is mostly theoretical musing, but that is starting to change. I'm not going to be making any drastic decisions, but some things are coming up that don't allow this issue to be purely hypothetical for me anymore. As you may know, I am a HS student and will be going into my junior year. I am currently signed up for Seminary but haven't yet registered for it at church--and I'm not completely sure I want to. My schedule is really a mess right now, and Seminary would be a sacrifice. Right now I find myself wondering if it's worth it.

Last year, Seminary was not the best experience, as you may remember from my "Adam & Eve" post. Kids were peddling homophobic t-shirts in class, and one day, my teacher ended a lesson by saying that homosexuality is caused by pornography and masturbation, his copy of The Miracle of Forgiveness in hand. Last year was also the maiden voyage of our school's Gay-Straight Alliance (which I was involved in), and between the budding GSA and Prop. 8, Seminary became a place for kids to bash gay people. So I find myself wondering, Why would I want to put myself through that again?

There actually are a few reasons. For one thing, it would be nice to have BYU(-I) as a back-up college option in case my Stanford bid falls through. The problem, of course, is that it's...difficult to get a BYU(-I) scholarship without Seminary graduation. Extenuating circumstances might change that, but in my case--where Seminary is a well-established program--it may well be impossible.

Then again, Why would I want to go to BYU, one of the harshest campuses for gay students in Academia? It really comes down to keeping my options open. Who knows what the future might bring for me, or if things might change? It's good to have a Plan B and remain flexible.

Still, it seems a little absurd to endure homophobic slamming in Seminary only to able to endure homophobic slamming at BYU.

Any advice?



Note: This post is not at all explicit, but it does concern a sexual topic.

Don't tell anyone I'm watching Oprah today. :-) The show today is a sex therapist saying that, for women, being desired means more than the actual sex. In fact, she says, the feeling of being desired is the orgasm. The first thing that came to mind for me was mixed orientation marriage: Besides intimacy itself, straight wives often miss out on this feeling of being desired--which is the reason behind many things women do. As Oprah's guest pointed out, women spend a lot of time and money doing things designed to increase desire (e.g., makeup).

Another topic was the fascinating interplay between evolution and attraction: men and women are unwittingly most attracted to each other when their bodies are most fertile. Beauty and appeal ultimately comes down to the highest chances of reproduction, which makes homosexuality an odd case as mating that has zero chance of passing on the genes.

? ? ?


The Truth Hurts

The truth is...
  • ...that I have lost who I thought I was and who I thought I was going to be.
  • ...that I am disillusioned about marriage after seeing inside some "perfect" marriages and watching my own family crumble multiple times. I don't know that I would want to marry a woman even if I were straight, and I don't know that I want to marry a man, either. Realizing that I am gay has not made me think I belong with a man; it has made me realize that I am not fit for relationships of any kind.
  • ...that I probably have a mood disorder called cyclothymia, a milder form of Bipolar Disorder. This is a self-diagnosis--I haven't "gone in" because I don't want to be manipulated by drugs and I worry that medication would interfere with my creativity.
  • ...that I believe the prophets of the Church are men of God, but I don't--I can't--believe that homosexuality (not just the sex act, but rather the gay relationship on the whole) is wrong. I realize this is a contradiction, but I am a contradiction, a walking paradox. The bottom line: If I accept that homosexual relationships are morally inferior to heterosexual relationships by nature, I also accept that homosexuals are morally inferior to heterosexuals by nature--and I can't live with the belief that God thinks less of me because of the way He designed me.
  • ...that I believe the Church is true, but I question the homosexuality policy because it has contradicted itself so many times, and God does not contradict Himself, which led me to seek the truth on this issue for myself. (I might not have done this if I weren't gay, but seeing as I was so directly affected, it was something I wanted to be sure of.) Perhaps this is not such a bad thing given that a few decades ago, the Church pushed shock therapy for gay members. Had I been a BYU student then, the choice would have been questioning the Church's homosexuality policy or electric-burned genitals. While thankfully the Church's stance has grown more reasonable, I'm still hesitant to believe that the pain of celibacy/MOM is required by God. The pain of electro-shock certainly wasn't, as evidenced by the fact that the Church no longer advocates such treatment.
  • ...that I hate myself so much it hurts.
  • ...that whereas my family and other problems will abate in a few years, THE problem will never go away, no matter what I choose to do. If I remain in the Church, I will think, "You're here because the Church says homosexuality is wrong--something you know is not true." If I leave the Church, I will think, "What if you're wrong and this is all a mistake? What if you have chosen the cup of eternal damnation?" Either way, I lose.
  • ...that cowardice and concern for my family has saved my life.
  • ...not as cut and dried as I once believed.


APA Press Release

Practitioners Should Avoid Telling Clients They Can Change from Gay to Straight

TORONTO—The American Psychological Association adopted a resolution Wednesday stating that mental health professionals should avoid telling clients that they can change their sexual orientation through therapy or other treatments.

The "Resolution on Appropriate Affirmative Responses to Sexual Orientation Distress and Change Efforts" also advises that parents, guardians, young people and their families avoid sexual orientation treatments that portray homosexuality as a mental illness or developmental disorder and instead seek psychotherapy, social support and educational services "that provide accurate information on sexual orientation and sexuality, increase family and school support and reduce rejection of sexual minority youth."

The approval, by APA's governing Council of Representatives, came at APA's annual convention, during which a task force presented a report that in part examined the efficacy of so-called "reparative therapy," or sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE).

"Contrary to claims of sexual orientation change advocates and practitioners, there is insufficient evidence to support the use of psychological interventions to change sexual orientation," said Judith M. Glassgold, PsyD, chair of the task force. "Scientifically rigorous older studies in this area found that sexual orientation was unlikely to change due to efforts designed for this purpose. Contrary to the claims of SOCE practitioners and advocates, recent research studies do not provide evidence of sexual orientation change as the research methods are inadequate to determine the effectiveness of these interventions." Glassgold added: "At most, certain studies suggested that some individuals learned how to ignore or not act on their homosexual attractions. Yet, these studies did not indicate for whom this was possible, how long it lasted or its long-term mental health effects. Also, this result was much less likely to be true for people who started out only attracted to people of the same sex."

Based on this review, the task force recommended that mental health professionals avoid misrepresenting the efficacy of sexual orientation change efforts when providing assistance to people distressed about their own or others' sexual orientation.

APA appointed the six-member Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation in 2007 to review and update APA's 1997 resolution, "Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation," and to generate a report. APA was concerned about ongoing efforts to promote the notion that sexual orientation can be changed through psychotherapy or approaches that mischaracterize homosexuality as a mental disorder.

The task force examined the peer-reviewed journal articles in English from 1960 to 2007, which included 83 studies. Most of the studies were conducted before 1978, and only a few had been conducted in the last 10 years. The group also reviewed the recent literature on the psychology of sexual orientation.

"Unfortunately, much of the research in the area of sexual orientation change contains serious design flaws," Glassgold said. "Few studies could be considered methodologically sound and none systematically evaluated potential harms."

As to the issue of possible harm, the task force was unable to reach any conclusion regarding the efficacy or safety of any of the recent studies of SOCE: "There are no methodologically sound studies of recent SOCE that would enable the task force to make a definitive statement about whether or not recent SOCE is safe or harmful and for whom," according to the report.
"Without such information, psychologists cannot predict the impact of these treatments and need to be very cautious, given that some qualitative research suggests the potential for harm," Glassgold said. "Practitioners can assist clients through therapies that do not attempt to change sexual orientation, but rather involve acceptance, support and identity exploration and development without imposing a specific identity outcome."

As part of its report, the task force identified that some clients seeking to change their sexual orientation may be in distress because of a conflict between their sexual orientation and religious beliefs. The task force recommended that licensed mental health care providers treating such clients help them "explore possible life paths that address the reality of their sexual orientation, reduce the stigma associated with homosexuality, respect the client's religious beliefs, and consider possibilities for a religiously and spiritually meaningful and rewarding life."
"In other words," Glassgold said, "we recommend that psychologists be completely honest about the likelihood of sexual orientation change, and that they help clients explore their assumptions and goals with respect to both religion and sexuality."

Members of the APA Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation:
Judith M. Glassgold, PsyD, Rutgers University – ChairLee Beckstead, PhDJack Drescher, MDBeverly Greene, PhD, St. John's UniversityRobin Lin Miller, PhD, Michigan State UniversityRoger L. Worthington, PhD, University of Missouri

The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world's largest association of psychologists. APA's membership includes more than 150,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession and as a means of promoting health, education and human welfare.
# # #

Full report available at http://www.apa.org/pi/lgbc/publications/therapeutic-response.pdf . Hat tip to Alan for bringing this to the MoHosphere's attention. Thanks!


Music and the Blogged Word

Look who else has scarlet-colored glasses!

Music is a major part of my life, so I finally added a player. Unfortunately it wouldn't work in the margin, so I had to place it at the bottom of the page. Then I worried that no one would listen to my tunes if they were hidden down below, so I enabled auto-play, which made me feel sneaky since music would inexplicably start playing and, if you wanted to stop it, you wouldn't know where to look! So I added "directions" to the welcome text at right. Who knew that adding a music widget would be such a dilemma?

I tried to select the music thoughtfully. I suppose it's obvious that my favorite band is U2! I'm a fan on so many levels (see the newly-added (BLOG) RED badge). You'll also find some REM, Counting Crows, and ABBA--hope you like it! Also included is a song by Melissa Etheridge from her coming-out album, Yes I Am.

I have also tried to choose songs that have a meaningful connection to my experiences. (Maybe I've over-thought this a bit!) The lyrics of U2's "Where the Streets Have No Name" feel especially appropriate:

I have climbed highest mountain
I have run through the fields
Only to be with you
Only to be with you

I have run
I have crawled
I have scaled these city walls
These city walls
Only to be with you

But I still haven't found what I'm looking for
But I still haven't found what I'm looking for
I have kissed honey lips
Felt the healing in her fingertips
It burned like fire
This burning desire

I have spoke with the tongue of angels
I have held the hand of a devil
It was warm in the night
I was cold as a stone

But I still haven't found what I'm looking for
But I still haven't found what I'm looking for

I believe in the kingdom come
Then all the colors will bleed into one
Bleed into one
But yes I'm still running

You broke the bonds and you
Loosed the chains
Carried the cross
Of my shame
Of my shame
You know I believe it

But I still haven't found what I'm looking for
But I still haven't found what I'm looking for
But I still haven't found what I'm looking for
But I still haven't found what I'm looking for...


Sorting Through My Beliefs

Last night was my first time in public as a MoHo (at the Loganside BBQ). I was a little nervous at first, but it really was wonderful to talk to people who understand. I gathered that most of the attendees were those for whom the original definition of 'MoHo' applies: a Latter-Day Saint who struggles with same-gender attraction but strives to live in harmony with the Church.

I had some great discussions, but I had to face something that has been troubling me for some time. I'm not too worried about the future--marriage, relationships, etc.--because I've finally been able to say, 'I'll cross that bridge when I get there--for now, I just need to take one day at a time." I've finally reached a place where my gay-ness (I doubt that's a real word, but 'homosexuality' sounds so clinical) isn't a big deal, and I've realized it's hardest to grapple with when I make it a big deal. Beyond that, though, is my larger struggle of my feelings about the Church. That is what's been tearing me apart. Not the fact that I'm gay. Not the fact that I don't know what my future holds. The fact that, as a gay member, I am in an uncomfortable position with the Church I love.

Yesterday a fellow MoHo blogger shared his feelings about the new Church pamphlet on 'SGA', God Loveth His Children. He had some frustrations that also went through my mind when my bishop handed me the pamphlet, which--though it certainly beats Helping Those With a Homosexual Problem or whatever the previous edition was called--contains some definite snags, for me at least. I gratefully acknowledge that it's a marked improvement from the previous tone of death-is-preferable condemnation, but this pamphlet is still greatly flawed in my eyes.

Of course, they're very carefully-worded flaws like "It is not helpful to flaunt homosexual tendencies or make them the subject of unnecessary observation or discussion. It is better to choose as friends those who do not publicly display their homosexual feelings" (page nine). Translation: don't be yourself, and don't befriend people who are themselves. I hope I'm not being harsh here, but that's how I interpret it. There's also this: "While many Latter-day Saints, through individual effort, the exercise of faith, and reliance upon the enabling power of the Atonement, overcome same-gender attraction in mortality, others may not be free of this challenge in this life" (pages three and four). Many Latter-Day Saints? In my view, those who have 'overcome same-gender attraction' are in fact bisexuals. Moreover, 'many' means that it is a goal that can and should be accomplished, that change of orientation is an achievable task, like working through an addiction or other problem. Can't you imagine the gay Deacon, Teacher, or Priest who says, "Well, if 'many Latter-Day Saints' can do it, why can't I? What have they got on me?" I know that that was my thinking for a time, and the bottom line is that it's a futile and destructive mindset. Nearly everyone in the mental health field would agree.

Perhaps the hardest thing for me to swallow is "As we follow Heavenly Father’s plan, our bodies, feelings, and desires will be perfected in the next life so that every one of God’s children may find joy in a family consisting of a husband, a wife, and children." In other words, we will become straight in the next life, an idea I find...unsettling. Despite the convenience, I don't think I would want to be straight, now or then. Sexuality is a core part of being--I believe, an eternal part of being. There are many like me, too. Would a just and loving God force us to be turned straight? I don't think so. How, then, could "every one of God's children...find joy in a family consisting of a husband, a wife, and children"?

For me, though, it goes deeper than this. Throughout all of my inner confusion, there have been three things--three sustaining pillars--about which I have not been unsure:
  1. Heavenly Father and Jesus both live and love me.
  2. I need not be ashamed about being gay.
  3. Homosexuality is no more inherently sinful than heterosexuality.
The third point was not a conclusion I reached through logic or research (though reason does happen to back it up: if homosexual attractions are morally neutral, are not homosexual actions as well?). It was something I knew. I knew that over the years the Church's stance on homosexuality has contradicted both itself and the Church's own teachings, so I needed to find out for myself, and I did find out for myself. That was, I think, the main difference between my beliefs and the beliefs of some of the friends I talked to last night. That is also, I think, the main difference between my beliefs and the Church's teachings, though I don't think that makes me a heretic. Keep in mind these two quotes (which I got from the Serendipity blog--thanks, Sarah!):
  • “The greatest fear I have is that the people of this Church will accept what we say as the will of the Lord without first praying about it and getting the witness within their own hearts that what we say is the word of the Lord.” - Brigham Young
  • "If Joseph Fielding Smith writes something which is out of harmony with the revelations, then every member of the Church is duty bound to reject it. If he writes that which is in perfect harmony with the revealed word of the Lord, then it should be accepted.” - Joseph Fielding Smith. (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols., (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954–56), 3:203–204 ISBN 0884940411)
According to the second quote, I am "duty bound to reject" something I believe is out of harmony with the revelations. It may be bold of me, but I do believe the teachings of the Church on homosexuality are out of harmony. And the fact of the matter is, I would need a strong testimony that homosexuality is wrong in order to live a celibate life or be married to someone not of the gender toward which I am oriented. Instead, I have a testimony of the opposite. Yet I continue to have a testimony of the Gospel's--and yes, the Church's--truth. Seem contradictory? I know it is. I'm not sure if I could explain it, but I am not so dependent on logic that I can't agree that some truths don't make sense. As j4k quoted in a comment on my blog today, "Logic is the beginning of understanding, not the end." (See "Beating a Retreat" for the full comment.)

It's hard for me to stand by and watch the Church's actions on homosexuality and the consequences of those actions. Shock and reparative therapy. Defense of Marriage and Proposition 8. Misleading pamphlets. The Plaza incident. Gay Mormon suicides.

And yet, I can't imagine living outside of the Church. Right now, my family is slipping into inactivity, and it causes me to consider if I really want a life I can't live in harmony with the Church. I look at the many MoHo's (and Mormons in general) who have left the Church and utterly lost their faith--becoming atheists or agnostics-- and think, I don't want to lose my salvation! I don't want to lose my faith! I don't want to lose my belief in God, my ultimate mooring!

I want to stay close to my Heavenly Father, and I don't want to leave (or be dismissed from) the Church. Some MoHo "strugglers" say that SGA is a trial like any other, one that can take us closer to God or take us from Him, but I'm not so sure. I realize that some would say it's a trial that has already taken me away from God. Again, I don't think so. I don't even see it as a burden, a trial, something to overcome. Rather, I see it as a blessing, a part of who I am. This is not a travail I long to be rid of...this is me.

Must 'who I am' automatically remove me from the great I AM?


New Moon

Like the new widget? Counting down the seconds to November 20!


Indian Advice on the Closet

I've been thinking about coming out lately. I was reading a book of Indian proverbs* and came across one that said, "Let your eyes be offended by the sight of lying and deceitful men." I then asked myself, Would my eyes be offended if I looked in the mirror? Am I deceiving people on a daily basis?

My mother's advice in a recent conversation was, "You never know. It just takes one--some special girl could come along and..." I said, "What would you say if the tables were turned and your mother said, 'Just wait for that special girl who will come along and magically turn you gay'?" I also reminded her that plenty of gay Mormons have done just that--waited for 'that special girl', sincerely fell in love with her, and married her in the Temple...only to have the supressed feelings explode a few years later. (As Stephen Covey said, "Unexpressed feelings come forth later in uglier ways.")

Then she said, "Just be open. At your age, you're searching for an identity--I know, I remember. You're young, and things change. People change." I am willing to 'be open', but I also know that there comes a point when you have to face reality and deal with the facts. The sooner the better, I tend to think. I realize that many adolescents who think they are gay are merely experimenting--physically or mentally--but I have looked inward and realized that I really am gay and really will, in all likelihood, remain that way. It took a long time to face the fact, but when I finally did, I felt an increased measure of clarity. And, I mentioned, this is not an exercize in identity-seeking. The fact of the matter is, I'm a pretty conservative guy who identifies much more readily with an equally conservative church than a community with a reputation for being a bit wild (the LGBT community at large, not the MoHo sub-group). And as far as culture, I'm more comfortable with the religious culture I grew up in and love than the rather, by definition, sexualized world of homosexuality (what many contemptuously--and erroneously--term "the lifestyle").

After hearing this, she said, "Well, what do you want to do? Make an announcement in the six o'clock news?" Her advice was that my sexuality really isn't other people's business, and I don't need to make it their business. And to a point, I quite agree: I don't have to sit my friends down and tell them I was born out of wedlock. Nor do I need to stand up at a family reunion and announce that I hate lettuce. So it's not like I need to issue a press release to come out as gay.

...And it was then that I read a second applicable proverb in the book, a Huron saying that goes, "Let your nature be known and proclaimed." This does sound like sound advice: if I'm not ashamed of who and what I am, there's nothing to hide. On the other hand, I don't climb up on the roof and shout, "I'M A CYCLOTHYMIC!", even though that would be "let[ing my] nature be known and proclaimed". So I'm curious--Do you agree with this quote? Is it better to let people know you're gay, or simply let them worry about it if they must (even if it means they sit around and wonder until they finally ask you upfront)?

Put another way: I think being out is not the act of announcing your sexuality but rather a state of mind, one in which you don't live with in fear of people "finding out". So, if you are in this state of mind, and you are willing to be honest and open with people, do you...
  1. Tell your associates and end the mystery once and for all: "There's something I need to talk to you about..."
  2. Be yourself, and let others think what they want of you. If they do ask you, be honest with them, but don't make a federal case out of it: "Q: Are you gay? A: Yeah, so what?" (that was how it went for Rep. Barney Frank, anyway).
Very interested to hear your thoughts!

*Zona, Guy. The Soul Would Have No Rainbow If the Eyes Had No Tears and Other Native American Proverbs. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994.


Food for Thought, Fresh from UT (!)

I'm finally back from Utah, and a lot has happened. I hardly know where to begin!
  1. I got to know myself a little better while away, and was able to look inward. At last I was able to accept the fact that I really am gay.
  2. My uncle (a highly intelligent physician) and I had an uncomfortable conversation in which he attacked homosexuality using beating-around-the-bush terms to which I couldn't really respond. At one point he said that "sometimes people say they're born...a certain way, and I don't buy it for a minute. They may have a genetic predisposition to something [homosexuality], but the choice is theirs. Just like alcoholism. It's a genetic predisposition, but it's first triggered by drinking alcohol. Have you ever met an alcoholic who hasn't tasted alcohol?" First of all, alcoholism is different from homosexuality precisely because of the "trigger choice", i.e., one has to make a choice to experience the full effects of alcoholism, while the full effects of homosexuality (as well as bi- or heterosexuality, for that matter) are felt without any chosen action being taken. Secondly, while of course I understand that most gay people don't choose to be gay in any way, I am unsure if the same applies to me, or if my uncle's opinion is, in my case, fitting. On the one hand, I have sometimes felt attractions for women; have I chosen to be gay by drowning out these attractions for women in "experimental" attractions for men? Or is it that I felt the most confused when I was trying to muster my heterosexual attractions, and now that I have finally accepted my homosexuality, these other attractions (or illusions of attractions) have fallen away? This suggests that it may have been a choice, and yet, perhaps it was my subconscious reaching for another future, and finally my self-acceptance has put that futile reaching to rest. Is that it?
  3. There is the possibility that while I feel and know that I'm gay now, that may not be the case for the rest of my life, especially as I begin to settle into adulthood. I do feel gay on an internal level, but still, teenage hormones change and develop, and maybe this is premature. On the other hand, straight kids can date the opposite sex without fear that their orientations will change, which sometimes happens. Then why couldn't gay kids have the same opportunities and confidence?
  4. I felt, on three separate occasions, impressions that my road entails pursuing a gay partnership, and that God approved of me as He made me. But there was doubt in my mind: was this genuinely personal revelation, or simply my own emotions?
  5. ...And then there are the implications of leaving the Church and, to some extent, possibly my (extended) family. My short life has, so far, pretty much revolved around the Church and my family, and I can't even begin to imagine life without either. They have been the framework of my life; without either, I would lose a huge measure of community and support. While there is, on the other hand, the LGBT community, I am quite conservative and felt uncomfortable the one time I wandered into the SLC Pride Center. Perhaps this is the result of internalized homophobia, but I still feel like the bat in an African legend: in the animal war between birds and furry animals, the bat, being neither, was fought by both (and, we can assume, was uncomfortable with either group).
  6. I was so distressed about the mere prospect of losing my church and/or family--along with the domestic stress I have already begun feeling in the days since I've gotten back--that I finally called the Trevor helpline and got some words of comfort. It's not that I'm suicidal, but I do admit that I carry around a death wish, e.g., 'Wouldn't it be nice if that tree would fall and crush me?' or 'If only that car would ram me and end all this', etc. (By the way, I'm feeling better now, though, as usual, every day is a struggle to some degree in our house!)The counselor fellow encouraged me to think about the future, which we discussed in some detail.
  7. ...And it was while talking about the future that he said, "...and you'll have a beautiful boyfriend who loves you to death!" This was a bit of a shock to hear outloud. I've given a lot of thought to the idea of a boyfriend, but to actually hear it expressed as a real possibility, an actual future, that was something new entirely. It made me consider what I really want out of life.
  8. At the end of the day, it's about what Heavenly Father wants for me (thankfully, I have not lost my faith in and love of God in this process). And here my thoughts inevitably flow to my Patriarchal Blessing. I am still not completely sure about what to think of this. I feel just a little bit uncomfortable trying to bend it around, and yet...
  9. ...The thought came to me that I must be an honest person if I am to be able to look myself in the mirror. I have the utmost respect for all of you in mixed-orientation-marriages--often entered into without the realization that it was such--but for me, personally, in my individual circumstances, I think that marrying a woman would be dishonest. Again, dishonest for me--I recognize that it's different for everyone, and there's a different solution for each person. But I don't know if I could call myself an honest man if I were married to a woman. Perhaps this is because I know that, if I did marry a woman, I would probably make the (very personal) decision to remain largely closeted. Just knowing myself, I don't think I could do a straight marriage whilst out.

I know this is a long post. I'm sort of having a rough time, I have to say, between my fears and insecurities in this department and the troubles and problems in the family department. It gets to be a bit much--I'm quite unhappy right now, and I don't know if that's because of the things I've posted above, or my unsurety of the future, or our domestic troubles, or what have you. I sometimes wonder, is my eternal soul in peril here? What if I've got it all wrong? Could I really leave the Church on the basis of my little ideas and feelings?

I'm not a gambler, and this is one bet I couldn't afford to lose.


Beating a Retreat

I feel that I've made a lot of progress in the past week. I had a little epiphany of sorts on Monday. Then, yesterday, I met Bravone for breakfast; we had a great conversation and his advice is very helpful (thanks again, Bravone!).

I won't go into specifics, because I still don't know where I specifically am, but suffice it to say my "aha moment"--as Oprah would call it--centered around the realization that I cannot continue to look for loopholes to justify my hopes (regardless of what path I end up taking). Then, over breakfast yesterday morning, we agreed that one can intellectualize oneself out of the Church, as I probably have come close to doing.

Anyway, I'm leaving to spend the next two weeks or so with the aunt that I've referred to in previous posts (yes, the very one who warned me about relying too heavily on logic). It'll be a great chance to talk to her about everything and just think about the direction I'm to go in--without some of the pressures I juggle here on the home front. I don't expect to have a clear answer on return--nor would I necessarily want that--but I hope it will be a time to "re-orient" myself (no pun intended) and gain some more clarity.

In sum, it's not that I've come closer to a decision, it's that my way of thinking has changed, in the following aspects:

  1. I am no longer going to comb through Church doctrine searching for technicalities to justify a homosexual partnership.

  2. I will view my struggle and my options with the lens of faith, not the lens of skepticism that I fear has permeated my thinking for the past while.

  3. I will trust in myself to make the right decision based on my dependence on Heavenly Father. I have spent far too much emotional capital in anxiety over this.


Off to Never-Never Land!

An unwittingly witty conversation with my sister, who knows her brother very well--excepting one trait (that he's gay):

Me: ...I'm going to start a book club with some friends this summer.
Sister: If you actually did half the things you say you'll do...
Me: No, I'm really going to do this! I have a list of names and everything.
Sister: No, you won't.
Me: Hey, remember the movie Finding Neverland? They're trying to fly the kite, and everyone doubts the boy, and Johnny Depp says, "It'll never fly if no one believes in him!" Then they all support and believe in him, and it flies!
Sister: Well, I guess I don't believe in you.
Me, quoting another line from the movie: "Every time you say, 'I don't believe in fairies,' a fairy dies."

It didn't occur to me until later how applicable that line really was! But no, I didn't drop dead on the floor shortly thereafter. And in all fairness to my sister...yes, I do sometimes have a hard time following through with my fabulous ideas.

...But I am doing this book club, dammit!


Today on Oprah

Interesting show today on Oprah: the fluidity of women's sexuality, and of sexuality in general. It is more focused on women because women do tend to be less fixed in their sexuality than men (because of the way hormones develop in the womb, I understand--also why there are many more gay men than women). There are several stories of apparently straight women falling in love with other women. Anyway, it really seems to be opening people up to the idea that one simply isn't all gay or all straight in most cases; they threw up a visual of the Kinsey Scale, which was new even to the queen herself!

It is also excruciating to see how much the children and husbands of these lesbian women have had to suffer. I can't get the thought of that being me, hurting my family, out of my mind.

Also interesting, a counselor saying she heard her clients saying, "I'm 95% attracted to women, but that 5% attraction to men is enough to sustain my marriage with my husband." I have sometimes felt this in the inverse--although my attraction for men is like a fire, what if the coals of attraction I feel for women could be fanned to the point that I could make a Temple marriage work? After all, I would only have to fall in love with one woman (the right "one"). But I have seen that thinking result in some very tragic circumstances...so many gay Mormons have said they were completely in love in their marriage, but the bottom line was that, in the long run, they were gay.

Then, a woman stated--as Scott and Alan have advised me--that "it's not about the sex". It's about identity, your internal sense of who you are. That's the key issue I'm dealing with. I really feel that I am gay--more of a matter of the spirit than the body


Patriarchal Lenses?

Over the Memorial Day weekend, I caught some sickness--maybe Strep--because, I believe, I feel worn down in all aspects--physical, spiritual, mental, emotional, etc. I have been stressed over grades, money, finals, family problems, and this issue--the apparent disconnect between my recently-received Patriarchal Blessing and my homosexuality.

Comments from both Alan and Scott have given me a lot to think about lately. (By the way, my latest response is in a comment of the previous post.) My thinking has trended towards the idea that the Patriarch certainly is inspired, but he sees things through the lens of his experience, as Scott and Alan have suggested.

I arrived at this conclusion after asking myself, "Do you really think a Patriarch has ever said in a blessing, 'You will marry someone of your own gender'?" I doubt it, and yet, I am convinced that there are some people for whom gay marriage is the path God would have them take. What sort of a Patriarchal Blessing might that person receive? As Scott pointed out, the Patriarch would probably see a marriage and associate it with his experience of heterosexual marriage.

Then there is the paragraph or so in my PB dealing with a full-time mission. This weekend (before going out of town) I received the transcript and read a line I had forgotten: The Patriarch said the Lord is pleased by the desire I expressed to serve a mission. However, in our pre-Blessing discussion (described in the previous post), I didn't really express a desire to do so. It was more like, "I think so" and "maybe/might/probably". It is quite possible that a mission is, as Scott said, PB standard issue. However, I didn't think that was the case with mine because the PB specifically counsels me to, in essence, get along with my companions on my "full-time mission". I have taken that as proof that he means the mission I would go on at age 19. But is it at all possible that that isn't necessarily the case? Is it possible that the companion he saw was actually a partner/husband? Is it possible that he saw me and another man testifying of the Gospel, and because he sees through the lens of his experience, assumed this was a full-time mission?

What do you think? A stretch, or personal revelation/interpretation?

P.S. I decided not to blog about the CA SC Prop 8 decision because I know you all are doing a much better job of analyzing it than I could. :-)


More on Patriarchal Blessings

This post is a continuation of the previous post about the Patriarchal Blessing I received on Sunday. It is mainly directed at Alan, who gave me some profound food for thought in his comment on that post, but I hope others will be able to benefit/contribute as well.

I have thought a lot about what you said, about the discussion thread on BCC, about what the Church has said, and about what I learned about PBs. And I'm sort of torn (big surprise--it must be so annoying to read such an indecisive blog!).

On the one hand, I want to do what Heavenly Father wants me to do; the trick, of course, is realizing what that is. But I did realize that, while the Patriarch is only a mortal, flawed man, I am certainly nothing more than that! In fact, it is the Patriarch, not me, who holds the Melchizedek Priesthood, who has this calling, and who has a kind of "special access" to revelation as such. I, on the other hand, have so much at stake that it would be difficult to suggest my interpretation of the Spirit isn't influenced by the outcome I want, which is not necessarily what Heavenly Father wants. While it may be argued that the Patriarch has his own biases, they are probably less intrusive than mine because of the nature of his calling. After all, what would be the point of PBs in the first place if we thought individual revelation superceded a Patriarch's revelation? If I can't trust a Patriarch's vision of God's plan for me, how could I trust my own to be closer to the truth?

Also, I went into this knowing that, first, the PB is completely conditional on my faith and obedience, and second, the PB takes the eternal into account, meaning that some of its promises may not be fulfilled during this life. When I read, Alan, of your grandfather and his non-participation in a Missouri temple's construction, I had a thought. Maybe your resurrected grandfather will help to build a Missouri temple during the Millenium. Or, maybe he left some funds to the Church that went directly to helping build the St. Louis temple. I just don't know, and perhaps it's better for me to err on the side of faith. Ultimately, I don't think I can simply accept the parts I hoped for and disregard the parts I didn't desire as much. Again, if I had gone in with that pick-and-choose attitude, I wouldn't have gone in at all.

So, here comes the other hand, as always. There was a conversation that the Patriarch and I had prior to the PB itself.

He asked me about something, I told him, and it was later brought up in the blessing. This made me wonder if it had something to do with the fact that he had discovered it before. My guess is that it would have come up whether I had told him or not, but I'm not completely sure. Maybe it would have come up either way but our talk just brought it to the front of his mind. I don't know. But there was also a point in our pre-Blessing conversation when we asked what my plans for the future were. I said, "Um...neuroscience, maybe brain surgery," dodging the mission issue. He looked up; I continued trying to block. "College, of course, hopefully somewhere warm." His eyebrows raised; defeated, I added, "And probably a mission," then went on with some other plans. (I now, unfortunately, don't remember if I mentioned the possibility of a family--too bad the discussion beforehand isn't recorded!--but if I did, it would have been a maybe.) He clarified, "So you do plan to serve a mission?" Here I was, this clean-cut, stereotypically stalwart Mormon young man, unsure of his mission? This was, in hindsight, the point where I should have brought up "my challenge." How I regret my cowardice in not doing so! How much confusion it might have spared! Instead, I said, "I think so, yes," to which he said, "Well, you have plenty of time to make up your mind."

Later, my full-time mission was brought up. Is this because he was trying to cement my decision? I don't know. He didn't just tell me, "You will serve a full-time mission," he delivered counsel uniquely applicable to serving a full-time mission. Yet my unsurety of going on a mission (for reasons discussed in the previous post) had been brought up beforehand.

So I find a part of me wondering, as Alan asked, Would he have brought up marriage and family if I had told him of my homosexuality? Did he bring up this dream of Mormon life to make sure this undecided young person would take the Church's "track" of mission-->BYU-->marriage-->children-->so on? Had he thought I was straight (and, at least previous to the PB, I believe he did), this sort of action might be seen as 'making sure this fence-sitter didn't wind up living with his girlfriend in Miami in five years.' The mission and family goal probably would be the ideal objective to persuade the average young, undecided Mormon (which I seemed to be) to follow.

Prior to my PB, I have thought that the Church's general plan for its youth may not necessarily be the same as Heavenly Father's specific plan for me. Yet, the PB is saying they are quite similar, apparently. In any case, the fact of the matter is that the mission and family parts of my PB comprised a significant segment--if not majority--of the Blessing, so I don't think that he just "threw it in" to sway my future plans.

I sorely regret passing by the window of opportunity that the conversation presented me with to enlighten the Patriarch about my nature, but I can't take that back. Accordingly, I am now left to ponder what did happen, and frankly, it probably isn't best to ponder the "What ifs" of the Blessing or the circumstances.

My aunt counseled me that confusion is of the Adversary. "Perhaps he is trying to twist this beautiful, spiritual experience into something that only confuses you more than you already were. You want [as Alan pointed out] all the answers now, you want to see how it works out now, but that's just not how faith works. We have to take the step of faith into the dark before the lights come on. 'Lean not unto thy own understanding,'" she quoted, worried that my logic-based style of thinking is interfering with my ability to trust that the Lord sees the end from the beginning.

I did feel the Spirit during the Blessing. If there were parts when I did not, who's to say that I didn't cause that with my own feelings of doubt, confusion, or fear (my aunt also reminded me that fear and faith cannot coexist, and that fear is of Satan, not Christ)? Again, I have to give the benefit of any doubt to God--I think it would be better for me to err on the side of faith. Yet, I don't especially want to go through the "unnecessary and misdirected struggling" that often accompanies MOMs.