Jan: Types & Stereotypes

Ok, it's the last day of January, so I'm going throw up my (rather disjointed) thoughts about Abe's alternative theme: stereotypes and "gay-/straight-acting".  An excellent topic and one I have long thought about.

My first thought was of a time we visited my missionary grandparents in Nauvoo.  I was eleven or twelvish then, and at that point it had never so much as crossed my mind that I might be gay.  Someone was recording with a video camera; later, the recording was played, but I couldn't see the screen.  I heard the audio, though, and one distinct voice in particular--a voice that instantly caused me to wonder, "Whoa, who's the queer?"  I came over to look at the video and to my amazement saw that the voice that had stuck out so wretchedly emanated from my...self.  This happens regularly when I hear a recording of my voice--I am struck by how gay I sound!  (Of course, part of it is just the way a machine records, but still...)  So, I don't judge people for their outward gayness.  If someone comes off as very effeminate, it's possible that they're 'acting' but much more likely they'e expressing their true selves.  If people are quiet or loud, outgoing or introverted, energetic or unenthusiastic, we accept it as merely part of who they are.  I don't see how this is any different; the animosity between 'femme' and 'butch' is a feud I have never understood. 

As for myself, I embrace neither label.  How I act depends largely on my surroundings.  Am I comfortable?  Do I trust the people I'm with?  What about mood?  (I'm more likely to be passed off as gay when I'm in a high mood.)  If these factors do not align it's more likely that I'll hide behind my usual mask.


In the prompt, Abe asked about the God Loveth His Children reference about 'bringing attention' to one's 'challenges'.  I have always taken issue with advice that tells us to hide our true selves and pretend to be something we're not. It implies that who we are is shameful, ignominious--not exactly a psychologically beneficial mindset.

It is true, though, that in some ways, out people have as much pressure to conform to gay stereotypes as closeted people to straight stereotypes. Either way, it's easy to get pushed around by people's expectations, but the key is the cliché but true 'be yourself'--experience and present yourself to the world in the way you are most comfortable.


As If My Own Issues Weren't Enough...

A while ago I was at a Logan fireside when I met an older MoHo who repeatedly lamented, 'I wish I'd known about this [support system] earlier" (he was quite new to the MoHo scene).  His frustration echoes back to me when I see guys my age who are likely Family--one fellow in particular.  'Does he think he's the only one, as many of us often have?' I wonder. 

Maybe he'll marry a woman and wreck a family (or perhaps, have a successful--if difficult--marriage).  Maybe he doesn't see 'the relation' yet.  Maybe my gaydar's completely off and I could end up humiliating him.  Maybe he'll suffer needlessly, not knowing of the options and support available to him.  Maybe he'll spend half his life in denial.  Or, maybe he'll end his life.

The ice is so thin here I suppose the only thing I can do is be a good friend, eventually come out to him (if it feels like the right thing to do), and leave the ball in his court.

And if some of you are questioning my motives, I assure you they are pure, though the thought did cross my mind...


Another Sunday on the Back Row

Today I came to church to collect some information from my Scoutmaster. I'm close to earning my Eagle--too close to not get it now. However, as upheld by the Supreme Court, the BSA has the right to exclude homosexuals from its membership. Essentially, the coveted Eagle rank is keeping me in the Church and the closet. Call me a coward, I don't want to run 90% of the race and then turn back on the last leg. I hope to be finished with it very soon.

* * *

During Sacrament I noticed a little girl a couple of rows in front of me reading a book called 'What Makes a Rainbow?'

...Maybe someday she and the rest of tomorrow's Mormons will find, face, and embrace the answer to that question.


Back Row Update

In light of a recent and relevant weighty event in my life, I'm following up the previous post with another.

First, thank you for your comments. I so appreciate your thoughtful and supportive remarks. Right now, every option is on the table for me. I'm not closing my mind to Temple marriage, a gay relationship, or celibacy at this point. I support fellow MoHos in whatever they decide is right for them.

Also, while I do have a few differences with the LDS Church (such as the nightmare that was Prop8), I believe in the Gospel and love the Church on the whole. One commenter, a disaffected member of the Church, posted his view of disillusion with the Church, and that's fine with me. My entire post was something of a gripe about the Church, and I understand that some of these issues (amongst others) can cause a member to leave the Church. Some feel it is best to ignore these things--putting them on the religious 'shelf'--and I fully understand this as well (the reason for my little warning before launching into my back row quibbles). However, I personally do tend to confront these things (for better or worse) while still keeping in mind the easy possibility of intellectualizing oneself out of the Church. While I would never presume to pass judgment on another's religious beliefs, I do take great comfort in the Gospel, and see the Church as a vehicle for it. As such, I do value my membership.

With all these ideas whirling around in my head, I thought it a bitter irony when someone I'm very close to told me they do not have a testimony. We talked about it; the person claimed to have never had a real belief in the Gospel. I bore my testimony, but it did little.

In some ways the situation is a mirror that shows a slightly altered version of my own position. Again I find myself wondering about the eternal consequences of leaving the Church... And how I have no problem with atheists, but when a person I'm close to comes out as one, it's a bit...different (which is similar to my mother's reaction when I came out as gay)...

It's a lot to think about. I find myself deeply saddened by this person's disbelief. (It gives me reason to evaluate my own future with (or without) the Church.) I feel so devastated by this because I worry about this close friend's happiness and everything else that's at stake.

A bit hypocritical of me? I'm not sure--I just want the best for this person.


Thoughts From the Back Row

Went to church Sunday for the first time in a while, and as I sat on the last row of metal folding chairs, a few things occurred to me.  [This may not, by the way, be a great post to read if you are having testimony trouble.  I should note here that I have a testimony of the Gospel and the Church, but I do see a difference between the two and believe that the Church's leaders are mortal men who have to struggle to find the Truth, just as we do.]

-Had I been born blind, would I have a different idea of my sexuality than I do now?

-Both Alan and Abelard have recently blogged about something I too have long felt: presently the Church has no place for us--culturally, theologically, what have you.  Heavenly Father does, but clearly the Church does not: to Church teachings a gay Mormon is a pesky counterexample, an inconvenient loose end that doesn't neatly fit into our current understanding of God's Plan.  The Church simply doesn't know how to explain or what to do with us, as evidenced by its erratic and contradictory counsel for its gay members and their families.

-Homosexuality affects an estimated one in every four families in the Church, and probably 2-5% of members are gay.  You'd think that the Church would be pretty clear about an issue that far-reaching (any other issue that prevalent would likely be a common theme for GenConference talks).  But in actuality "SSA" is rarely mentioned, much less discussed.  When it is, there's no guarantee it will be accurate or Christian (the Hafen talk and Elder Oaks's advice to parents of gay children come to mind).  Frankly, this is because 1, the Church clearly does not yet have the full truth on the matter (see above), and 2, they don't want people to see their cluelessness.  Imagine what would happen if the entire Church was aware of its meandering record on homosexuality (from instant excommunication to conditional membership, electro-shock to celibacy, reparative therapy marriage to discouragement of MOM, choice to unchosen, curable to 'possibly not overcomable', et al).  In other words, the Church stays (relatively) quiet to save face, and when parents, families, and bishops are left to their own devices (that is, prejudices and ignorance), who pays the price?  Sorry if I seem resentful, but it is what it is.  We're talking lives here--which state, again, has the most suicides among men 19-24? 

-That being said, maybe I've actually caught a gigantic break here.  While I don't see marriage to a woman any great prospect, I'm under no delusions that a gay relationship would be a picnic, either.  Judging from the kind of son and brother I am now, I don't know if I would be a good father or husband (to a man or a woman).  Sometimes I think I've seen all of marriage I want to--that I'm actually lucky to be one of the few Mormons off the hook, if you'll allow me to be so bold.  I know I speak from profound inexperience here, but maybe celibacy wouldn't be so terrible for me.  I like being alone, I would have the Church, I could have my dogs and maybe some neices and nephews.  I realize I'd have to be married in the next life, but hopefully I won't be resurrected as a psychopath.    :) 
[...This is partially tongue in cheek, of course, but partially my genuine feeling on the subject.]


Uneasiness Follow-Up

Several weeks ago I reported I'd been "feeling uneasy lately, like there's thick, black smoke in my stomach". I thought that it was guilt, a signal that I was on spiritual thin ice. While that may still be the case, I doubt that was the underlying cause here (seeing as if it were guilt relating to homosexuality, it would follow an action, and as a reader pointed out, I haven't actually done anything there). So tonight I have a more likely finding.

I believe this "thick, black smoke" is not internal but inhaled, so to speak: my home is polluted in a way, and it's little wonder I should feel the effects of it after a couple of years. This probably seems obvious, but when you're surrounded by something long enough, it becomes regrettably unremarkable.

But now it is obvious, even to me. One clear sign is that I didn't really have this pit in my stomach when I was at school or otherwise out and about. Before, I supposed that this was because the distractions of the world were 'blocking out' my conscience. Now I see that when I'm engaged in school and other activities away from home, I'm able to forget about the problems that I sometimes find there. It follows that it began to feel like a permanent ailment because I spend most of my non-school time at--where else for the scholaholic with no social life?--my house.

As if I don't have enough inner turmoil as a gay Mormon, I'm conflicted with my feelings toward my mom. At times I feel angry over wrongs (perceived or real), and at times I feel compassion for a mother of two who's been through a lot. Most of the time I feel an uncomfortable combination of the two, and I think this 'mixed state' contributes to the dis-ease I often feel.

So...I'm looking forward to college. (As one perceptive reader suggested, I'm looking for one at least a state away!) I'm focusing on the future and all that I have to live for. And most of all I'm hopeful, because now that I can clearly see this knot, I can finally start untying it.

P.S. I know I can occasionally wax melodramatic, but please know that this is not a call for pity. While like all families we have our problems, we also have some wonderful times together. I would describe my home situation as the typical 21st century American fam-damn-ily, and if I went into more detail than that most people would roll their eyes and waste no time filing my case into the 'So what?' category. That is where it belongs, honestly, so for a truly sad situation that really does deserve our attention and hearts, I would direct you to the Blog (RED) badge at right. :)