25 August 2007

Conflict, Integrity, and Ownership

In my previous entry, I mentioned that I am neither impervious to the pain nor living in misery over the conflict of choosing what to do with my attraction to men in light of my "religious beliefs" and life experience. I have been through painful or empty times when I wished I could just go to sleep and be extinguished out of all existence and be done with the conflicts, the contradictions, the trials, the harder parts of life. I am no longer in that state. Not for now. I don't expect to be so again any time soon, but I acknowledge the fact that you never know what curve ball life may throw.

I still face some interesting questions and/or dilemmas, such as the desire to ask out the cutie at the office/electronics store. But it doesn't tear me apart. Or isn't doing so for now. Maybe I'm cold-hearted. Maybe I'm old and crusty. Maybe I am in complete denial of the tortured, torn state of my wretched heart. Maybe I'm a religious zealot pretending things aren't as they are for comfort's sake. But wanting to ask the guy out and stopping myself seemed not so much a tortured, painful decision as a shrugging of my shoulders and a decision not to carry through, for my own reasons. It's a conflict, for sure, but not an especially painful or damaging one at this point, though it certainly has been heart-rending before.

I'm not the only one making this kind of decision. A married man meeting a beautiful woman may feel very inclined to get to know her better, maybe even ask her out to dinner for some quality one-on-one time, but most often, I'd guess married men choose not to pursue that route. They choose, instead, to acknowledge that attraction for what it is and move on with their life. They decide there are other things they value more than the newfound infatuation or genuine interpersonal connection: wife, children, family, covenants, promises, friends, responsibilities...

Should those things be resented or blamed for a man's apparent inability to fulfill his desire for companionship? Shouldn't he be allowed to be happy? Isn't happiness found in obtaining what he feels he wants and needs emotionally? He may have a wife to go home to, but what about when his wife is not fulfilling him emotionally, mentally, sexually, and the marriage is empty? Shouldn't his children want his happiness and understand when he leaves their home to be with a woman he wants to be with? Or are there things in life that matter more than feeling fulfilled by the only person it seems can fulfill you? Are there some relationships and commitments that matter more than others? It may seem a hard pill to swallow, but is it possible to find fulfillment in other ways when you have a reason not to pursue what feels so desirable? Or is that simply settling for something lesser, something compromised? Is feeling the desire for the woman wrong? Or is it completely understandable, especially if the marriage is rocky? In such a case, his actions will define who he is and what (and whom) he values most.

There is no person to whom I have covenanted to be emotionally and sexually devoted and with whom I have become "one flesh," so my conundra and reasons are not the married man’s. But the fact is that both the devoted, married man and I have chosen not to pursue that which does, in fact, come very naturally, because "natural" isn't enough.

It seems obvious to me that all human relationships are unique in their complex nature. For one man who wants to ask another man out with the potential for a romantic connection, I may not even try to apply the comparison I've drawn out here. For many men who want romantic involvement with other men, there may very well be little or no reason for them to choose not to pursue it. Certain spiritual and religious principles may or may not apply, or they may apply differently. Certainly a person who subscribed to no particular proscriptive religious doctrine but who follows their own code of ethics and spiritual principles which do not include the exaltation of opposite-gender marriage may have absolutely no reason to deny themselves a committed relationship with someone of the same sex. To such a person, my decision not to ask a seemingly very nice, attractive guy out to dinner must seem saddening, oppressive, and terribly self-denying. To me, it’s a choice, and one I made freely of my own agency, whatever the consequences.

Might my priorities shift over time? Might my beliefs wax and wane and change over the years? Might my outlook and perspective on life itself be blown apart and reformed in an entirely new light? Yes. Then, my decisions may change, and I acknowledge that possibility. But for now, they are a certain way, and I try to make my decisions generally respectful of them.

I think it comes down to what you truly believe and what you truly, deeply feel is at your core: what you most believe and what matters most. If you're a gay mormon and claim to find integrity in pursuing a same-sex relationship because you have to be true to yourself, what you're basically saying is that you don't have enough reason not to, which means you don't fully believe what the general authorities of the church teach in that regard, or you do believe it but value what you desire more than what you believe to be true. If that's your stance, own it. If you claim to find integrity by not embracing a same-sex relationship because you have to be true to yourself, what you are saying is that what you believe to be truth conflicts with and is more important to you than the potential happiness of having a romantic, same-sex partner, or maybe you believe you're going to change and are just waiting for the trasformation. If that's your stance, own it. Own your beliefs and choices and set aside pawning them off as requirements imposed by other people. I don't want to lose too much time lamenting over things which are, in reality, in my control.

So the long and not-so-short of it is that while it would be nice to not feel any conflict in my life, I think conflict is inherent to life and necessary for us to discover and define ourselves. Integrity, to me, is being true to all of yourself and admitting when you are compromising one thing for another. It is owning your life and your decisions. We all have to do it. We all decide what we value most and make our choice. I know it's easier said than done, and I realize my life experience and situations are not yours, and I make no claim of perfection in this or any other regard, so it's not about me preaching to anyone because I don't even have all the answers for myself, let alone anyone else, but for now I can't shake the questions: Don't I ultimately have the reins in my own life, for my own reactions and what I do with the situation I'm in, exquisite or horrific as it may be, whether or not I chose it? I may experience soul-wrenching conflicts and face terribly difficult decisions (and if you know me, you know decisions are not my forte), but why live in anguish when I am the one with the reins?

1 comment:

Stephalumpagus said...

Thank you for this post. I agree whole-heartedly.

Also, it has been much too long since I've seen you.