28 April 2007

My first essay on SGA

The first time I ever expressed my feelings to a forum, I posted a journal entry of mine to an online discussion group in April 2005. Two years later, and after a hiatus from the online moho community, I'm reposting this as an introduction to the blogging world. It's long. WAY long. If you're up for it, here it is:

25 March 2005 (revised a few times since)
So many ideas. This is ridiculous. I'm looking for something else to write to avoid writing what's really on my mind. And I'm tired of writing what's on my mind using cryptic language and vague references in case anyone should ever read it. Maybe I should just write exactly what's on my mind and see how it goes. So here it is… I'm sexually attracted to guys. Of course, only very fit, good-looking guys. I've always been finicky, and this is no exception. As long as I can remember, I've longed to run my fingers down firm, toned pecs and abs. This has been the case ever since I've been aware of sexual feelings.

That's not to say I've never been attracted to girls on some level. I find as more time goes by, I forget some of this, so I'm writing it to remember. On an emotional level, I've been attracted almost exclusively (until recently) to girls. And when I really think about it, the non-physical attraction towards males came about after the physical, whatever that means. For some reason, the male form was intriguing and attractive, but I was not attracted to any `real' boys in an emotional, romantic way. I've felt some physical attraction, however mild, towards girls at times. Some part of me is attracted to tight, curvaceous, long-haired brunette beauties. But I admired the male form from afar—somehow it felt less dirty to look at men than women because they didn't have anything I didn't…except great physiques. Over time, women slipped further and further into the background. Now, physical feelings towards the opposite sex seem contrived or conjured, and distant. It seems like it's the blasted physical aspects that get in the way. Once I awakened to sexuality and discovered that it was heavily biased towards members of the same sex, things got complicated.

No doubt this text, if being read by family members and most friends, is grossing them out thoroughly. I have always been active in the church and have held leadership callings in many organizations. I have sat in bishopric meetings where church courts were discussed. I served a mission which taught me so much and gave me sweet memories and powerful experiences. I have even been known as a bit of a goody-goody. So it would be shocking to not only see the supposedly non-sexual me expressing burning desires deeply confined but to see those desires directed at members of the same sex!

I know what it's like to be grossed out by two men kissing or by the mere thought of it. Seeing it frequently grosses me out, too. In fact, even though I've desired some forms of sexual contact, the thought of kissing most guys seems repulsive and wrong, while the thought of kissing most girls seems…more natural even if they are not at all attractive to me (is this social conditioning?). So imagine my confusion when I first thought I might like to kiss a guy…but only an attractive one with whom I felt a connection.

I do fine alone, but I also want intimacy. And I want it to be physical as well as emotional. I want to feel like all is well in the world when I cuddle up to someone. I want to be excited to see someone every day (even if that wears off somewhat over time, I'd like to feel that at first, at least). I want to feel emotionally, spiritually intertwined with someone. I want to feel safe with someone. I want to feel like someone can know everything about me and be OK with it. I want that `someone' to share my standards, not challenge them. You can imagine my conundrum. What good, conservative LDS girl knows how to handle having a bisexual, gay-leaning boyfriend, let alone husband? What understanding, open-minded person who wouldn't be threatened or confused by my plight is also a family-minded, R-rated-movie-shunning member of the church? And if I find such a girl, will I even be attracted to her? Do you know how rare such girls are? And do you know how rare it is for me to find girls sexually attractive? On the other hand, say I did find a sensitive, intelligent, conservative guy I click with: I would have to choose between the church (and doctrines) and a potentially beautiful relationship. To complicate the befuddlement further, choosing between the church and this relationship may actually be a matter of choosing between deeply held beliefs about God, the universe, life, and myself and a life without a family but with someone with whom the whole universe melts away and doesn't seem to matter anymore. How closely do I hold those beliefs? Are they real or forced? Don't I want a family? Can I really feel like life is complete without raising children like I always wanted to? Would adoption into a same-sex parenthood be fulfilling, or-—more importantly-—right? After all, I, myself, have argued it is not.

Two bishops are the only people I've ever talked to about this. Both have dealt with it before, but neither has seen much in the way of `change.' One encourages thought control and changing perceptions willfully, even kissing a girl to see if it does anything for me, when I expressed that I'm not revolted by the idea. Unlike the others he has dealt with, I don't find intimacy with the opposite sex repulsive, per se, just not nearly as desirable. The other bishop says that if I decide to marry, I'll probably, considering the statistics, just have to go about life and marriage the best I can while accepting the fact that my sexual life simply will not be as fulfilling as most men's. I'll have to give up sexual fulfillment for the much deeper, longer-lasting fulfillment of emotional and spiritual intimacy and raising a family. This rang true but depressing at the same time. This second bishop is a professional psychologist. He knows what he's talking about. And yet my problem is one of, "Gee, yeah, that's a tough one. I'm afraid there's no nice answer for you." He did say he could arrange counseling for me, but I didn't pursue it.

If inspired bishops are somewhat at a loss, is there anywhere else to turn for help? Family wouldn't handle it well—it's too close to home, and they're not the best at keeping things private. How many times did trusted family members `slip' information about others that was supposed to be private?

And it may seem silly or comical, but how do you tell a friend you've repeatedly seen naked or nearly so that you've been attracted to the male physique since junior high? Would they even believe it if you told them--in all honesty--that you were never actually attracted to them and that had you been, you never would have allowed certain situations? And how do they suddenly take back all the harsh things they've said about homosexuals in your presence? No, you'd rather talk to someone who completely understands. You have your hunches of other friends and singles in the area who also may be struggling with the same issues, and you suspect it might help them and you to talk, but how do you approach a guy in elders' quorum and ask if he, like you, is into boys and wishes he weren't? "Oops, no, you're not like that? Oh, well… uh… neither am I… I was just trying to find out if you were a homo… So, how `bout those NCAA play-offs?" Really.

What about the friend you are sure experienced the same temptations …but you never said anything because he prefers to be seen as conservative and upstanding and generally doesn't talk about personal things. Now, you're dying to know how his feelings may have regressed or may be tearing him apart now that he's married. You suspect he's never spoken with anyone about these things and think it might be good for him to know he's not alone. How long did he find guys attractive, and how attracted was he to girls, and how sexually attractive does he find his wife? Does she know about his attractions? Does it get in the way of the relationship, or is everything great? Maybe he thinks he's all over the SSA. Or maybe he really is. You wish he were the type who talked about personal things so you could help each other, but he's not, so the one person you know would understand to some degree, you can't talk to.

You could go to a counselor, but the counselors nearby would either know you or your family or do not have the doctrinal framework to help you from the angle you want. You could maybe commute to see a good LDS counselor, but the bishop says he hasn't seen much progress from prior counselees. There are support groups to attend, like Evergreen, but the closest meetings are far away, and they seem to mostly consist of married or previously married middle-aged men with whom you struggle to relate. So you review many web sites on the subject and read online forums to get a sense of what they've been through and feel deterred from going anywhere near marriage while struggling this intensely. Other support groups are just too supportive of the `gay lifestyle' to be relevant to you.

So will I be judged for deciding that I need to live a life of celibacy and sacrifice marriage and family? Or will I be judged according to what I've been dealt in life, including a sort of exemption for having had to try to sort out this dilemma?

And if I chose to live without marriage and family, would I be in open defiance of my patriarchal blessing, which tells me I will be married and have a family? If that is revelation, then I can and should carry on with marriage despite my sexual attractions, right? Is it possible that promise was given with the understanding that I could choose it if that's what I wanted, but not that I have to, to fulfill the Lord's will? I mean, the Lord sometimes lets us know he would sanction a decision were we to make it, but we're not required or even expected to make it…doesn't he? But then, that's concerning matters that aren't clearly `right' or `wrong.' If I really do have the freedom to choose to marry versus stay single, does same-sex attraction exempt me from being held accountable? Am I making all of this up in my mind to justify my thoughts?

But if so—if it really is black and white and my patriarchal blessing tells me what I must do—it sure is still not a nice, tidy answer. After all, do you tell a potential fiancée about your orientation, possibly sparking insecurity on her part and distrust in the relationship? Would that be akin to telling your brunette wife that you've never been attracted to brunettes but only luscious blondes? Or is it a much different matter? Do you hold it back, never discussing it, but always live believing a huge part of you is repulsive and unacceptable to the one you are supposed to feel safest with? Or do you figure, we all have a past and skeletons in the closet, and there's no point in sharing them if nothing constructive is likely to come of it? You see, it's not just about the sex and sexuality. It's about intimacy. Initially, the worries are about whether I would be turned on by my wife. But I know the emotional intimacy is what matters most. But will that be what it should if she can't know this one, big part of me? Or if she wonders why she doesn't turn me on? Or if she knows about it and thinks she can handle it at first but then realizes ten years down the road that she can't deal with always wondering if I'll ever change and become attracted to her? Is it fair to bring her into that?

I have had an easy life. No huge challenges. No terrible trials. I always asked when my trials would come. Maybe this is it…or one of them. It certainly seems like a big one now. But then at times I think—let's look at this objectively. It's just sexual attraction. Aren't I just taking one aspect of my life and letting it rule me? My identity consists of a heck of a lot more than who or what arouses sexual, physiological responses. Stop obsessing about what your body chemically or hormonally reacts to in physically pleasing ways, and follow the Lord's plan. After all, some people are alcoholic (in the clinical sense, not just behaviorally)…or have horrible tempers… They didn't choose to be. They just have tendencies that may make it a little harder to live certain gospel principles. Then I think again—you can, through hard work and counseling, get an alcoholic away from the bottle. But can you make them enjoy prune juice instead? You can curb a temper, but a temper also doesn't necessarily, by definition, inhibit your carrying through with major covenants necessary to eternal life.

OK, so I think I've rambled just about all the thoughts I have for tonight. I realize other people struggle with huge dilemmas in their lives. There are people all over the world who, for whatever reason, have lost all desire and satisfaction (emotional, physical and otherwise) in their marriages and have to fight through them and carry on for the sake of their children. There are people all over the world who struggle just to feel like they are capable of accomplishing great things, or even of attracting anyone. There are people destitute and lonely. There are people surrounded by violence and turmoil. There are people who don't see how they'll even be able to survive past tomorrow. They just have to carry on with hope that one day, everything will come together. They have to trust. I suppose I have to find some way to do that. Same-sex attraction is not the only challenge in the world people are born with. It certainly seems unique, but it's not the only one.

I feel better, but I think I'll have to revisit this frequently to remind myself to calm down and not feel so despaired.

That was two years ago. Now, some perspectives have adjusted. Some views are broader. I've found a lot of input, talked with a lot of people, learned a lot, and experienced a thing or two, and yet it's funny how applicable most of these questions still are.


agirlwho said...

Hey you. Intriguing post. Isn't it interesting to look back and see how our perspectives have changed? A year ago I would admit that my mindset was much narrower as well, although in different ways. I am so glad to know you and I will miss this summer. Keep blogging. I want to hear from you. Love...

Kengo Biddles said...

Gold star for using per se and spelling it correctly!

It's interesting how perspectives do change at times. I know I've changed over the years, for better, for worse.

Much to think about, for both of us.

by a thread said...

Thank you for sharing that. Your family read this? Um...how did that go?

I think we are the same type of Moho/Gay by the way. Must be the rural living.

Bravone said...

Wow. This post probably summarizes better than most I have read the thoughts, dilemmas, heartaches, hopes, and questions most of us who identify as religious homosexuals feel or have felt. Any open minded individual reading this would have a much better understanding of naturalness of homosexual feelings and the difficulty a homosexual faces reconciling these natural feelings with the teachings of the church.

Wouldn't it be interesting if heterosexuals felt they had to choose between their natural affections and the spiritual teachings of their youth, and the gospel they taught and loved?

Reading this breaks my heart for those, including me, who wrestle with such a complex issue. I feel such compassion for others who, like me, have had to make conscience decisions of the role homosexuality will play in their lives.

Because I understand so intimately what is involved in working through these difficult issues, I have nothing but respect for those who so thoughtfully and deliberately chose a path that I may differ from mine.

My path has been a crooked one, and yet I feel at peace with where I am in life, and feel blessed to have learned, grown, and been refined by my life experiences to date.

My hope is that all who find themselves in this situation will one day likewise find peace in the path they choose, whatever that path may be.

jimf said...

> [D]o you tell a potential fiancée about your orientation. . .?
> Do you hold it back, never discussing it, but always live believing
> a huge part of you is repulsive and unacceptable to the one you
> are supposed to feel safest with? Or do you figure, we all
> have a past and skeletons in the closet, and there's no point
> in sharing them if nothing constructive is likely to come of it?

Have you ever read the Thomas Hardy novel (or seen the movie
version of) _Tess of the D'Urbervilles_?
(I've never read the book, but I've seen the Polanski film.)

A beautiful peasant girl, Tess is seduced and impregnated
by a rich aristocrat, only to be abandoned and have her baby born
out of wedlock and die in infancy, denied even a Christian burial.
Afterward, she seems to find true love with the handsome Angel Claire,
who proposes marriage to her. Tess wants to come clean with
him about her past, but is strongly cautioned by her mother to
keep silent about it. When, on their wedding night, Angel confesses
his own past indiscretions to Tess and begs her forgiveness,
she readily offers what he asks, but goes on to tell him that
she must also beg his forgiveness for something, and then tells him
the story of the baby. Angel goes stony-faced and silent, pulling
away from her. Without a word, Tess takes off the wedding ring
and puts it on the table, and leaves him. (They meet again
before the end of Tess's life, and Angel reaffirms his love for
her, but it's too late, and tragedy overtakes them both,
in classic Hardy fashion.)

Like Tess, I cannot imagine keeping a secret like that from
a potential mate. It almost frightens me to think that there
**are** people (and I know there are) who can compartmentalize
their minds to such an extent that they could pull off
such a deception over an extended period of time. For me,
it would completely compromise and distort the relationship.
Every declaration of love from the partner would prompt
a grinning skull inside my head to whisper mockingly "It's
based on a lie. It's all a lie."

The ability to build a mental wall high enough to block
out that sepulchral voice, or to distort reality enough
to block it out, is completely alien to me.

It's not a principle, or a "virtue", it's just the way I