31 May 2008

Whom To Trust?

A friend's younger brother recently came to terms with the fact that he's attracted to guys, and it's kind of heart-warming and exciting to see him being honest with himself and starting the journey to greater personal understanding.

At the same time, it's a little disheartening to think about the fact that...I don't know who I'd refer him to, or who I'd trust with him. I can think of only a small handful of guys who I believe would keep his best interest in mind.

It makes me think of a kid a friend told me about who was preparing to go on a mission, and he connected the kid with a few mohos in his area whom he trusted to help him with his goals and support him. Before long, many of them had fooled around with him.

Granted, the kid was a "big boy" who could make his own decisions, but the fact that so many of these trusted friends were so willing to contribute to derailing his decision to serve a mission and diverting his attention to less meaningful pleasures for their own enjoyment is unsettling, to say the least.

This is not unique to mohos, of course. It's a classic tale: the new kid just coming to terms with his homosexuality is often fresh meat and fair game for the more predatory types in most gay circles. And there will be hoards of people telling you to "be yourself" and then defining for you what that is, telling you "who you are".

There are also people who will insist that unless you thoroughly repress your desires and sweep them under the psychological rug, you are not normal, and you are not faithful. Some will insist that you speak of the subject only in hushed and reverent tones and never laugh lightheartedly at your situation. For some people, that may be best or may be what they need at that time, but that's not my approach, others will just have to deal with that.

I guess I just want to throw out a warning to those who are just beginning to explore the nuance and ramifications of their homosexuality. I don't want to create an unnecessary sense of distrust. But do be healthily skeptical. Do be smart about who you trust, and about those to whom you become vulnerable. Carefully choose people who will respect your desires, goals, beliefs, and free agency. Exploring various perspectives can be helpful to define your own, but while doing so, be aware of motives, your own and others', and whether they are in everyone's best interest.

There are many people who will seem to be looking out for you but who ultimately don't understand what selflessness really entails. I'm not sure I always do, either, but I try. The point is, we're all human, and we're all mistaken, and we're all right, so just be wise and recognize that nice or flattering words are no substitute for consistent action, attitude, and respect.

With a bit of wisdom and moderation, you should be able to find plenty of help and support without looking back feeling like you've mindlessly joined one herd or another or given someone excessive access to your emotions or your body but have examined and forged your path with care and integrity. I think that's important.


A.J. said...

Two very helpful and awesome posts. Thank you. -Andrea

[kɹeɪ̯g̊] said...

I can think of only a small handful of guys who I believe would keep his best interest in mind.

The problem inherent in that, is a lot of people may have good intentions, but they really have no idea what is best for someone else. That is something we all have to individually decide for ourselves.

Carefully [c]hoose people who will respect your desires, goals, beliefs, and free agency.

I think that is the best advice. What is right or wrong for me has no bearing on what is right for someone else. I think that it shouldn't matter what someone else thinks or believes, for the most part, we need to all just respect and accept them.

Original Mohomie said...

Thanks, Andrea.

[kɹeɪ̯g̊], I realize you're extremely sensitive to this whole idea about people just respecting others' beliefs in the way you think they ought to, and you've felt deeply hurt by people close to you not embracing your decisions. Regarding most of what you said in response, I agree that most people have good intentions and we all have to figure things out for ourselves and we have to respect agency.

A couple of points in response:

a) I don't subscribe to the "what's right for me may not be right for you" rhetoric the way I think many do. I think it devilish to step back while your loved ones approach pitfalls you've been injured by in the past or have seen others injured by. I don't think you'd do that. If someone "believes" those pitfalls are not pitfalls, then must you quietly step back and say nothing while they walk into them? Maybe they'll be fine. Maybe not. But must I deny them the opportunity to learn from my experience? Wouldn't that be disrespecting their belief that the pitfalls are not pitfalls?

I also think it devilish to force people to do as I think they should. If I truly love someone, I will not hold back when I see warnings to be made, and I will not deny them the opportunity to learn what they need to by making their own choices.

b) When I speak of having someone's best interest in mind, I don't mean the kind of self-centered world view in which you think everyone's lives are like yours and they must make the exact same decisions to navigate life successfully.

What I mean is putting someone else's welfare above your own self-serving desires. Good intentions mean little without selfless consideration, which is something I see grossly lacking in the gay community, among others. A bunch of attractive young men with raging hormones tend to in-breed a culture of selfish gratification and self-absorption that is handed down to each new generation of budding homos. Of course, that's my own perspective, and I would never declare that to represent the entire population, just a large portion of it. But whatever it means to you to put others' welfare above your own self interests, I think the principle stands.

[kɹeɪ̯g̊] said...

Yeah, I guess I am sensitive about these kinds of topics.

I do however agree with you about point "a". I just think it's problematic, as you point out in "b".

I've learnt when asked for advice or in a situation where it might be useful to make sure I use "I" and not "you" statements. I share what has helped me, and what I believe, but try (often not quite successfully) to make it clear that the solutions for my life may well not be the same as for someone else's. But then again, they may be.

I know we have a fundamental difference of opinion on a few things (the church), but I think the very fact that we have had very different experiences and answers/solutions in a (dare I say) rather similar situation, leads me to believe that prudence is very important in trying to help someone else.

I'm not at all suggesting we just sit back and not get involved. I think it is the moral thing to do to help someone by what we've learnt the hard way.

I guess that I would advocate selflessly helping someone just to help them, and not for any other reason. I just wanted to point out that it's not quite as simple as that - I've been "helped" my many well-meaning people, who were unable to realise that just because it works for them, didn't necessarily mean it was right for me.

I guess my point is, I would say something, but also realise that other than that, there's not much I can or should do.

Original Mohomie said...

Yeah, I think that's fair, too.

Abelard Enigma said...

"Choose your friends carefully. They will greatly influence how you think and act, and even help determine the person you will become. Choose friends who share your values so you can strengthen and encourage each other in living high standards. A true friend will encourage you to be your best self."
"For the Strength of Youth" pamphlet, p.12

Sage advice for whatever circles we find ourselves in - gay or otherwise.