25 April 2008

Being Believable

I started writing this a few days ago, and since "Moderation" was on my mind tonight, I figured I'd wrap this one up and publish it, too, since I see it as related.

As I have kept tabs on various organizations for gays, ex-gays, gay mormons, etc., I find that there's a lot of distrust and misunderstanding among the different factions. Everyone's experiences are highly individual and unique, yet people on both sides often tend to see everything through their own paradigms and completely discount the experiences of people who come to conclusions they disagree with.

I think part of this is due to the fact that everyone tends to dig deeper into their trenches to prove their correctness.

Faithful Mormons will have a hard time believing the "out" individual who claims they never felt happiness or peace in the church and the spiritual experiences they had in relation to it. They won't believe they stayed with it so long if there was nothing rewarding about the doctrines and/or the culture or that they truly didn't believe it at all.

"Out and proud" types will scoff if an active LDS homosexual person says life is all beaming smiles and giggles and living in the church is a cakewalk because their leaders told them so. They just won't buy that there aren't deep conflicts to be reconciled and sorrows to be worked through.

When a friend of mine told me he had gone on a date or two with a girl who was bringing out feelings that excited him, I asked him if he was feeling desires to be physical with her in a romantic sense. Did he wanna get freaky? He answered in the affirmative and then questioned whether I believed him when I returned my coldly skeptical silence. I said, "No, I can believe it." But the skeptic in me was, indeed, demanding more data. "But is it like what you've felt with guys?" I asked.

He quickly replied, "Oh, no way! But it's something, and it's enough to be exciting," or something like that.

I said, "OK, now that I can believe."

It wasn't that I didn't believe he was feeling something and even genuinely excited about what he was feeling. Because of my experience with homos/mohos/what-have-you, I am sensitive to people magnifying their attractions to members of the opposite sex and turning it into something unrealistic in their minds just because they've felt a glimmer of something. They start feeling "cured" or thinking "this is the one" girl who will turn everything around for them. Then, when the newness wears off, or the relationship doesn't work out, for whatever reason, they're that much more devastated that it didn't last or hopeless that they'll ever find another towards whom they feel the same.

Fortunately, I think this friend has a pretty good grip on reality, but every once in a while, I ask clarifying questions like that to see where he's coming from, or if I can still relate.

Incidentally, it sucks to feel "left behind" while others are "graduating" into relationships with people of the opposite gender or claiming their attractions are mostly gone, and so there is probably a knee-jerk reaction against it. Of course, that goes both ways. I see similar knee-jerk reactions from friends of gay mormons who decide to pursue same-sex relationships.

I understand, to an extent, feeling the need to present a less "moderated" face to decisions. If this same friend were to openly admit to many of his friends who are opposed to "fooling yourself" into thinking a relationship with someone of the opposite sex can work out great and be just as fulfilling as one with someone of the same sex, his admission that it's not quite like the sexual feelings he's felt towards guys would be immediate ammunition to violently shoot down or mock his attempt to develop a meaningful relationship with her, regardless of what other rewards and happiness he finds in the relationship. Because of their focus on the supposed necessity of sexual passion, they will not look past that to the many other facets of the potential relationship.

On the flip side, many actively religious people don't want to hear the truth, that it's not the same in that aspect. They don't want to hear that it's not quite totally cut-and-dry. They have overcome their difficulties in life through prayer and fasting, so why not him? Why not this way? It's uncomfortable to look past their paradigm that the atonement will heal any "ill", so he needs to fake it 'til he makes it.

Both paradigms demand that he deny what he truly feels and embraces and wants for the sake of fitting comfortably into their own paradigms. To those who feel pressured in this way, I say own your own decisions. Be a revolutionary. Forge new paths. No trail was ever formed by the explorer who said, "Nobody's ever gone there, or people have tried and turned back, so obviously it's not possible," and turned back to what had been done before.

The topic of homosexuality and whether someone should pursue their apparently natural sexual/romantic desires or whether they can and/or should live dedicated to beliefs which prohibit same-sex romance is heated and full of prejudice and passion from both sides of most arguments. Because of that, I value the openness of the few voices out there who aren't afraid to defy stereotypes and paradigms and don't mask their doubts and difficulties nor their hopes and triumphs for the sake of toeing the party line. They may confuse the hell out of people who want a box to live in. But hey, confusion sometimes leads to a desire to find answers. Those who proclaim it's cut and dry are typically not fooling many people. Gay or ex-gay, astute people will see right through it.


[kɹeɪ̯g̊] said...

I like this post.

While I may not always be the best at expressing it, I deep down do believe that everyone's path is their own, and that what works for one person may not necessarily work for another.

Being Mormon didn't work for me. Not at all. But I recognise that it does for many others, even those who are gay. I know it sometimes seems that I think everyone gay Mormon would be happier in a gay relationship, and I do think that is the case for many, but I do know that there are also many who wouldn't.

I guess what I'm saying is, when it comes to my life and my experiences, I more or less know what I'm talking about. I will (strongly) defend my choices and beliefs. However, I try (not always successfully) to give others the same treatment I expect: respect their experience and beliefs as authentic, and take them at their word. If someone says that Mormonism works for them, despite/regardless (or whatever word you'd like to use there) their homosexual attractions, then I really think that they are just as right to chose that life as I am to choose something different.

Whatever side of the fence you're on, I think that's the best way to handle it - and most any other issue.

Anyway, I agree fully with your final paragraph(s). Nothing in life is ever "cut and dry" (I wonder where that saying comes from). We all just need to forged our own paths, and not be nearly so concerned about what paths others around us are taking.

In the end, all that matters is that I know that I'm doing what's right for me. No one else can ever really know that. I can argue and debate all I want, but it doesn't matter. I know that my path is right for me.

I wish I were just better able to live that principle better in my own life.

J G-W said...

"it sucks to feel 'left behind' while others are 'graduating' into relationships with people of the opposite gender or claiming their attractions are mostly gone, and so there is probably a knee-jerk reaction against it"

Wow. I think you've summed up the source of so much fear and anger between folks in and out of the Church. One of the grand dangers is constantly comparing your life to others, thinking that just because something works a certain way for one person, it therefore must translate exactly the same way for me.

I've found the only way to keep my sanity and to remain steady is to accept that my path is my path, and to patiently go forward knowing that I will learn what I need to learn on the schedule I need to learn it, if I am humble and if I just trust God.

A Girl You Know said...

"Cut and dried" originally referred to herbs, hung to dry as opposed to fresh... which also leads to one definition of the idiom: "Prepared and arranged in advance; settled" or "Ready-made, predetermined and not changeable."

Yeah, you prompted me to a little Googling...

(I also learned that "cut and dry" is not actually the correct usage. blah blah blah)