So, I was encouraged by Pres. Uchtdorf's talk to those who have left the Church or are on their way out. It was fair, sympathetic, thoughtful. And then today, Dallin Oaks's reinforcement of the party line on gay marriage, etc., was a reality check on Uchtdorf's kumbaya, a reminder that it's business as usual.
Uchtdorf reminded me what I love and miss about the Church; Oaks reminded me why I left.
And I still don't know which is stronger--I love(d) being Mormon, but I am gay. I want a marriage and a family, and that would have to be with a person I could fully love on a romantic, emotional, and physical level--in all likelihood, another man, in other words. And yet, it is a Mormon family I want, and it is probably my Mormon upbringing that has made family so important to me in the first place. They are the same, unified desire -- being gay and being Mormon are inextricable from each other and from my being.
Is it possible for a gay couple to have a place in the Church? Watching the videos from the Affirmation conference last month (which I really wish I could have gone to), I felt hope that it was possible. Listening to Uchtdorf yesterday, I was encouraged by the invitation that "There is room for you here." Listening to Oaks today, I wonder if there ever truly will be. Is it worth it to try--risk?--finding out?
I sent in my formal letter of resignation of my membership in the LDS Church about a year ago. Though I went to great lengths to ensure that it was worded to legally obligate the Church to remove my name from its records, I have not received any confirmation that that has happened. And, contrary to my plans, I haven't done anything about it. Though I consider myself ex-Mormon -- I have from the moment I dropped the envelope in the mailbox -- I haven't taken the last step to ensure that the last tie is severed. As a psychology major interested in psychoanalysis (to the bewilderment of pretty much everyone), I can't chalk this up to sheer laziness -- I suspect something deeper, an unconscious part of me that's still hanging onto my Mormon identity.
More than identity, even -- living in Utah County for the summer has reminded me of just how Mormon I really (still) am. I'm still avoiding coffee and drugs, but more for direct health reasons. Still pretty chaste, though more because of the lacking dating scene where I'm at. And I cover up the past year's depression (from which I'm recovering) with a mostly cheerful, almost involuntary Goody Two-shoes facade -- and it doesn't get more Mormon than that.
After some reflection it seems easily possible to me that my reasons for these behaviors are simply pretexts hiding the fact that at least unconsciously I am still striving to meet the Mormon standard of worthiness I grew up with. In other words, I am rationalizing my 'virtue.' As Freudian psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan said, speaking of Dostoyevsky, "As you know, the father Karamazov...says, if God doesn't exist...then everything is permitted. Quite evidently, a naïve notion, for we analysts know full well that if God doesn't exist, then nothing at all is permitted any longer. Neurotics prove that to us every day." Lacan scholar Slavoj Zizek elaborates:
What characterizes modernity is no longer the standard figure of the believer who secretly harbors intimate doubts about his belief and engages in transgressive fantasies; today, we have, on the contrary, a subject who presents himself as a tolerant hedonist dedicated to the pursuit of happiness, and whose unconscious is the site of prohibitions: what is repressed are not illicit desires or pleasures, but prohibitions themselves. "If God doesn't exist, then everything is prohibited" means that the more you perceive yourself as an atheist, the more your unconscious is dominated by prohibitions which sabotage your enjoyment. [Slavoj Zizek, How to Read Lacan]
This certainly seems to hold true for me, and I have undergone the cultural shift Zizek describes from prohibited believer to inhibited 'rationalist' in a matter of months. Considering the toxic attitudes toward sex to which all Mormons are exposed, it's no surprise how sexually repressed we -- er, I am. Which means it's no surprise, perhaps, that I am drawn to psychoanalysis and its champion, the scientist of sexual repression as prevalent in LDS culture as it ever was for the Victorians.
...Or, going deeper again, is it simply another unconscious attempt to return to my Mormon ways, to "follow the prophet" and dogma of a different "religion," as psychoanalysis is sometimes mockingly called?
The point of this meandering post is that I'm coming to the realization that I'm still Mormon enough to warrant maintaining this blog and working through the many Mormon feelings and thoughts that are still very much with me. The hardest thing about leaving the Church (which I'll blog about later) has been the loss of community, and though I've found other forms of community, this is one way to stay connected to a part of my past and a family I've always been grateful for.
The BSA excludes homosexuals from its ranks, and has even fought to the Supreme Court for the right to so discriminate. I took this as a reason to actively not earn my Eagle, until I began to realize that I had as much a right to work toward it as any other Scout, and wanted it for many of the same reasons. Plus, as a friend of mine pointed out, "it would be a big 'up yours' to be an upstanding member, get the reward, and then turn around and say, 'By the way, I like boys!'" In any case, I thought I would try to prove that one can indeed be both gay and an excellent Scout, helping to further confirm the absurdity of the BSA policy. So I did the merit badges and project, and here I am, an Eagle. What I didn't consider is that my "up yours" to the BSA could be perceived as an "up yours" to the mentors and former Scout leaders who sat on my Board of Review tonight.
My coming out is a matter of time, for my own sanity. So, these men, some of them father figures to me over the years, will feel justifiably deceived when that happens, no? Duped, even betrayed, for having passed me off to the highest level of Scouting? My last question tonight was if I had "violated the law of the land;" I confessed that I had perhaps broken the speed limit here or there, but done nothing more serious than that. It was then explained to me, "We just don't want someone to get their Eagle this week if they're going to jail the next." "Especially with our signatures on it," someone added, indicating it was, to some degree, a matter of their personal reputation and judgment. I assured them I am a law-abiding citizen except, I said lightly, for the exceptions I mentioned. "It's more about moral things," the district advancement person said. "That is very, very, very serious..."
I pledged, on my honor, to "do my best to do my duty to God," even if it's not in the context of the LDS Church, but they may well interpret my leaving the Church as turning my back on God. I pledged to be "morally straight," not straight, but many of them will probably not see a difference.
So, how now do I come out without hurting these men? Will I be stripped of my Eagle status? Or will I effectively strip these men of their status, or at the very least damage the community's trust in their judgment?
Furthermore, for the past few weeks I've been going to church for the sole reason of Scout-related business. I've told my bishop, privately, that I will probably not always be apart of the Church. But the rest of the ward has no idea, so if I stop going to church now that I have my Eagle, will not my Young Men's leaders feel used and unfairly taken advantage of?
Yet I have neither desire nor reason to go to church (I'm certainly not being forced by my [inactive] mom); three hours of hurt because of my differing sexual and religious orientations confirmed that to me today (not to say I'm leaving because I've been "offended," but because my religious beliefs have changed, something I will post about soon, and because on a thousand levels I don't fit in--church attendance is not making me a better person in any way--and the truth is, I hardly consider myself Mormon, if at all, anymore). So, so long as it is a net negative experience for me, why should I feel compelled to continue going? I have as much desire and reason to attend a Catholic mass or a Baptist sermon as I do LDS services, even though I am fairly heavily invested in the ward...
I'll end by noting that this whole scenario is IMHO rather unfair--I should be able to be myself and earn my just rewards without worrying about things like this. But the reality is not so, and right now this is the reality I and other gay Scouts have to work with. Accordingly, any advice as to how I should proceed given these circumstances would be much appreciated!
"This weekend I'm at a family reunion, and I'm realizing that for many of these people, this may be the last time they see closeted me. So, every I-love-you and compliment I receive is countered with the thought, If you knew the real me, would you still feel that way?
"Currently I feel like I'm loved despite who I am; what I want is to know that I am loved (or even not loved) *for* who I am."
(Thank you, by the way, to all of you who have done this--accepted and loved and appreciated me for who I am. It means the world to me:)
Today, as I registered for school and saw my friends for the first time in months, many of the same thoughts went through my head. The fact is, I'm ready to be loved--and despised--and admired--and rejected--for who I truly am. I'm ready to take the bad with the good; to paraphrase one of my favorite books (Sándor Márai's Embers), if one is liked by everyone, then one is a whore. It seems like, for so long, my goal has been to please/appease/placate everyone else, to the point of sacrificing my own well-being. Well, I am a whore no more. To quote Martha Beck, "Live your truth, losses be damned." That means you, friend who will act like I am a completely different person, and you, relative who will tell your kids to keep well away from me. I will somehow survive without your shining, saintly influence--somehow.
...Of course, I'm not all fire-breathing queer rage. I'm genuinely afraid of losing some of the people I love. But a decision based on fear, as an uncle of mine recently advised me, is not the right one. Besides, I need to be able to know--definitively--whether someone loves me or the concept of me he or she has created. As an anonymous quote goes, "It is better to be hated for who you are than to be loved for who you are not." And I am prepared to be hated (or at least, as prepared as one can be for such a thing).
Being nearly legally adult and still in the closet, I feel like a twentysomething trick-or-treater: the mask is just too small and painful and unnecessary to keep up the charade. And why do I still don this silly, unwieldy, unconvincing disguise? To be rewarded with the cheap treats of approval and maintenance of the status quo, to have my head patted by the religious and familial trick-or-treatees in my life. To really beat the analogy to death, then, I'm realizing that I don't need to stoop to this level anymore--the "fun-sized" bits of pseudo-validation have lost their appeal forever. I can be my own person--my own man, if I may be so bold as to gingerly try on the term; I can, in short, use my own abilities and my own merits to go and buy a king-sized candy bar, of my own choosing, whenever I damn well please!
(Please keep in mind that I can speak only to my own situation. We all have different paths and different circumstances, so please know that no one loses respect in my eyes simply because theirs is different than mine. If you are feeling offended or slighted right now, rest assured that I am not condemning or judging the decisions of anyone, except perhaps myself.)
So, I have one last door to knock on--I'm so close to the house giving away Eagle Rank bars that it wouldn't make sense for me to quit when one of the few prizes that approaches being worth it is nearly within my grasp*--and then it's off with the mask...forever. Next metaphorical Halloween, *I'll* be the one with the candy bowl.
*Some background: the BSA has fought to the Supreme Court (literally) to ban "avowed homosexuals" from its ranks, hence a moral quandary eventually resulting in my above resolution to not judge others' decisions.
It's been months since my latest post--I'm sorry it's been so long. Truth is, I haven't felt like much of a MoHo lately. It's the first half of the term: I have been exploring other "spiritual paths," and my religious beliefs have changed considerably over the past months. I needed some time for that process (which I will post more on later), so thank you for that.
However, the news of Todd Ransom's suicide has jolted me awake from my long reverie. Scott's post on the subject really hit me--and my conscience. Reading his thoughts I realized that no matter how un-Mormon I become religiously, a part of me will always be a MoHo, and I need that community--we need each other--and maybe there will be someone who might, at some point, need my help.
Like Scott, I didn't know Todd personally, but I know plenty of people who could have just as easily been him. As I'm in the Salt Lake area for the summer, I could have been at the vigil last night, but unfortunately didn't find out about it in time because of my absence from this community. I do regret missing out on that, and I hope next time I will be there for others. So please, consider me back.
Rest in peace, Todd.