19 December 2008

If There Were a Pill...

...which was proven to "cure" homosexuality in one dose (AKA dissolve your homosexual/homoromantic feelings/desires/inclinations/passions and replace them with matching heterosexual/heteroromantic ones), and it was offered to you for free, would you take it?

Someone's statement today resurfaced this question for me. It reminded me of several months ago when my mom asked, "Wouldn't you rather not be same-sex attracted if you could help it? Wouldn't life be easier for you if you weren't torn between what you want and what you believe is appropriate to act on, or to feel more able to find a wife and start a family?" She seemed a little surprised (I hope not devastated) when I said maybe, but I wasn't so sure that I would. How I am is what I know, and it's hard to not want what you want (or not to believe what you believe). Yeah, it's a conflict, but I just don't know if I would take that pill. Maybe. Some days I'd be more inclined than others, perhaps.

Some of my reasons for reluctance towards said hypothetical pill are personal. Some may be very much emotional and possibly not logically defensible. Some I'm not sure I can even identify. But it's an interesting question to ask myself from time to time. Makes me pause to reflect on and assess a few things.

I admittedly worry for people who would stubbornly decry the very existence of the pill and would refuse to even consider taking it because "change" is another word for "dishonesty" and "hatred". But just as much, I worry for people who would be overzealous in their eagerness to take it to become "normal". I worry their attitude will lead them to miss out on the opportunity to love themselves as they are before moving on and to use that love in understanding others. I worry they're trying to skip learning to live life deliberately, to bridle their passions, to see beyond the "monster" they've created in their minds. I even worry they'd be overly confident that all of their problems would be solved by becoming heterosexual and life would be a cakewalk from that point on. I can't say I'd totally blame people for being first in line. But I would (or do) hold back and let the eager masses go first while I figure out if I really even hope to say goodbye to this part of me once and for all. Even if it seems obvious it could resolve certain conflicts for me, it's not a comfortable prospect to shift an entire paradigm and approach life from a very different angle.

Is it possible I've become addicted to or dependent on "the conflict"? It is, after all, certainly a puzzle. I like puzzles. OK, I obsess over puzzles. And it does make me a bit of an oddity, though the high number of LDS SSA/gay/struggler bloggers cropping up are beginning to make me feel annoyingly non-abnormal. Dang. I enjoy the self-flattery of fancying myself to be an anomaly of sorts. I do hope I don't have so much energy and identity tied up in the "conflict" that I wouldn't know who I am without it, that I wouldn't know where life's next mystery is if I were to let go of one side or the other.

Maybe I'd sample the gradual change pill. You know, out of curiosity. Maybe one that would make me "straight" just for a day. See how I like it. Then back to the safety net of neurotic, repressed mohoness to which I'm so affectionately accustomed.

16 December 2008

Common Ground? Not So Sure...

I recently attended a "town hall" meeting regarding the Common Ground Initiative in Salt Lake. Sitting in a room full of gay activists and allies, I felt distinctly...distinct. I looked around the room and thought, "The people crying most loudly to be treated like everyone else are not at all LIKE everyone else. They're rougher, more crass, seemingly oblivious to how bizarre their appearance and speech would seem to most people they encounter on a daily basis. I don't think my perspective is SO skewed that I don't realize that I live in a cozy, suburban bubble that belies reality. I think they are probably deceived, unaware of the oddity and crudity of their behavior and sexual expression." Mind you, people looking or behaving "differently" should be no excuse for treating them with any less dignity or respect than anyone else, except perhaps where they're dishing out disrespect themselves. So I'm not saying people who are different don't deserve rights. I am simply saying I wasn't sure what, exactly, they were really hoping for...was it to be seen as "normal" and "typical" regardless of what they do and say? I wasn't sure. That may sound ignorant, but it's what I thought. Here I was, a gay man rather turned off by gay men and women and their in-your-face, militant attitudes. In their spouting off, they demonstrated just as little real intent to understand their probable political opponents as most Prop 8 supporters did. Common Ground? Really? I was disappointed.

I was left feeling a clear desire not to become what I was witnessing, not to partake in the culture promulgated by those whom I was inclined to defend. Mind you, I had to check my gut reactions and recognize my knee-jerk distaste for what it was, but there was something intangible, inexplicable which spoke to me that this was, in fact, the core of the "gay" world, once you get past the pretty veneer of sexy young guys having sexy young relationships. For some reason, seeing two middle-aged men together, neither one acting much like a "man" in the traditional sense, and it bothered me. Shoot, I'm not as tolerant as I thought, maybe.

I thought, "Well if anything in my recent experience has instilled a desire for heteronormative functioning, this is it. I don't want to be middle-aged and weak- and fragile-seeming. I don't want to sound bitter and harping on religion and the vast majority of society. I don't want to be 35 and look utterly used and spent, probably the result of a really destructive pattern of habits and pastimes." I didn't want to be gay, and I didn't want to be counted as gay. I came to support a positive effort, and I went away feeling bland about the effort. I was a traitor.

And so it became clearer to me, as I felt distanced from the "gay" world, how some gay people desire and attempt to defy nature and what amounts to "common" sense to try making a normal, traditional male-female partnership work, apparently against the odds. I most often bristle at eager attempts at conformity, but in this dark, shrill room, I felt a clear desire for a more "normal" life. The idea of facing social and religious challenges and battling prejudice my entire life, possibly for no good reason other than my own stubborn refusal to accept the sanctity and eternal nature of gender and male-female marriage...well, when that lifelong battle was so clearly before me, I paused. I paused considerably.

I recognize that I still cling to some social norms and traditional roles. Much of me still thinks men should be sensitive and affectionate yet still strong and independent. Much of me still wonders how much of gender identity disorder or transgenderism is really psychological confusion that could be "corrected". And I fully recognize that I would then have to wonder more seriously whether counseling could also, in turn, "help" me with my homosexual/homoromantic desires. They're not the same thing, to be sure, but if I'm going to challenge the gay establishment in regards to transgenderism, I have to be fair and allow my own "condition" to be challenged. In a roundabout way, my pangs of what would be called intolerance by some made me back up and try to understand where those who are "ignorant" or "intolerant" about homosexuality in general are coming from. It reminded me that not all who believe in some kind of "change" are haters or simply not trying to understand, and it reminded me that just as I've gone through processes, I have to allow others at least as much time and learning to "come around", and maybe it's OK if they never completely do "come around" in certain ways because hey, diversity is the spice of life, right?

No Serious Person...

As much as religious people most often show a fundamental lack of understanding of where their gay counterparts are coming from, people often show a fundamental lack of understanding of religious people's views regarding their own sacred institutions and the role of sexuality, as evidenced on page 3 (online) of a recent Newsweek article:

"If we are all God's children, made in his likeness and image, then to deny access to any sacrament based on sexuality is exactly the same thing as denying it based on skin color—and no serious (or even semiserious) person would argue that."

Really? You sure about that?

I could write so much more on this. Another time. I don't have the energy or desire right now.

15 December 2008

Difficult Confession

I've had an inexplicable desire to snuggle and spend time with a saucy, altruistic, hottie brunette...of the female variety. None in specific. Just the idea of one. I know. Weird. For a couple of days now, pretty steadily. I've seen a couple of lovely daughters of God and thought, "OK, not bad. I could explore that possibility for the sake of actually procreating and living without all the baggage and stigma and complication of a gay relationship. Maybe there really is something to this whole marrying the opposite sex thing."

I think I'm not supposed to admit this sort of thing because it misleads the masses. "Wait...but he said he's gay! Liar!" And it threatens the whole "gay guys can't honestly be interested in women 'cause that would ruin our whole insistence that sexuality is totally fixed and absolute" camp. And they're a highly sensitive bunch you don't want to offend if you can help it. Wounded beasts lash out. Not pretty. Lots of growling.

Maybe I've been a switch hitter all along but have just "dabbled" in the gay club. Maybe I've actually been just as interested in girls all along. *stifling a scoff*

Maybe I'm beginning the gay-dreaded transition into heterohood at an alarming rate. By the end of the week, I'll be wearing flannel and spitting tobacco and pinching random women's butts. 'Cause that's what straight dudes do. Dang. I'm going to miss my scarves. But I guess I won't miss them if the woman-loving Hyde takes over.

Maybe the straightness has been in me all along and is now emerging because I've healed my sense of masculinity to the point that the natural processes are taking place. Dave and Rich will be so proud of me.

Or maybe I'm still rather non-hetero but am tired of resisting the urge to ask cute guys out because it will only end messily unless I go all out and open up to the possibility of a "real" relationship with a guy, which I haven't done. So I'm sick of not having that kind of companionship, so hey, those curves aren't really all that bad, if you look at them and slap a Matthew Goode face on 'em...eh no, nevermind, I'm not into gender-bending; take that mask back off. Yeah, OK, those delicately beautiful lines aren't so bad. I could work with that. Especially if she's the aggressive type and will throw me down. That's hot.

And the silky hair, the sweet smell, the soft skin...have I mentioned boobs aren't so bad, really? Could be fun. And the tenderness, the sensitivity, and the thoughtfulness of most women I've known outshine most men I've known. And I could probably take her home to family without tension. And she can probably make babies and feed them naturally and bond with and mother the little ones she birthed. We could still adopt, not out of necessity but out of desire.

Heck yeah, send in the applications, ladies. Just being interested and somewhat open to the possibility of non-perverse love is a rarity for me, so act now. But, um...act fast 'cause this is most definitely a limited-time offer. My less-gay-than-yesterday phases don't usually last very long.

12 December 2008


Hm, maybe the gay rights movement should just let the straighties keep their "marriage" and fight to adopt "garriage" into the Constitution instead. That could be fun. And church manuals and past talks say nothing of sexual relations being OK between garried people, so no sweat on the Church's part to have to clarify what kind of marriage is chaste, right? Adoption agencies can still choose to adopt out only to married couples if they want. And churches can marry or garry to their hearts' content. I think this has potential...

07 December 2008

Power In Labels

Words carry power. Without words, thoughts remain nebulous, and expression pales. When a word's perceived meaning is changed, communication and understanding shift with it. Words carry cultural implications and symbolic nuance.

It is precisely because of this that I often refuse to be a slave to existing social paradigms in the self-application of labels. If I use a label for myself, it becomes mine, and it makes me no less an individual or beholden to some one-dimensional mass. Rather than assimilating wholly into the label, I add context and facets to it. Perhaps I'm naive in thinking so, since most people will not see it this way. Most will see the label and ascribe various traits and beliefs to me without even realizing they've done it or questioning whether it is just to do so. Fortunately, I'm generally not afraid of that. Those who prefer ignorance will persist in it regardless of what I bring to the table. Those who recognize their own ignorance will learn and will add me to their conglomeration of who comprises a given label. But the perception of the label will never change if those whom it describes don't speak up for themselves.

Merriam-Webster's definition of gay:

Main Entry: gay
1 a: happily excited: merry
b: keenly alive and exuberant: having or inducing high spirits
2 a: bright, lively
b: brilliant in color
3: given to social pleasures; also: licentious
4 a: homosexual
b: of, relating to, or used by homosexuals

Main Entry: ho·mo·sex·u·al
1 : of, relating to, or characterized by a tendency to direct sexual desire toward another of the same sex
2 : of, relating to, or involving sexual intercourse between persons of the same sex

Some are uncomfortable referring to themselves as "gay" because "gay" is associated, as you can see, with "licentious". And "homosexual" implies purely "sexual" desire. And we, in Mormon culture, know that sexual appetite is evil, right? Some argue that same-sex attraction is about much more than sexual desire--intimacy, sexuality, romance, etc--so to use "-sexual" undercuts those nuances. Generally speaking, people so acutely aware of the problems with such labels don't apply the same stringent requirements to other self descriptions, but perhaps social stigmas make us understandably more defensive about certain pet peeves.

Maybe it's fair for people to say "I don't consider myself 'gay', so I don't care about changing the perception of that label." I, however, would prefer it if, one day, people could hear "gay" without thinking only of Will & Grace, anti-prop-8 protesters carrying "Mormon scum" signs and vandalizing temple grounds, or gay pride parades replete with all kinds of whoredom. I know gay people who are quietly living productive lives, giving to their communities, maintaining committed relationships, living every bit as "morally" as their straight counterparts, just not following the Proclamation on the Family. Are they less "gay" because they don't subscribe to licentiousness? Am I less "gay" because I'm not looking for a same-sex partner? I guess we all draw our lines somewhere.

Some members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints refuse to ever call themselves "Mormon" because they are "latter-day saints" or "LDS" or "members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints". Many of us will use "Mormon" casually when it's convenient. Heck, I've even known one or two members of the Church who would not refer to themselves as Christians because that carried a connotation that they were part of the larger, apostate Christian community, and they were more comfortable staying separate and distinct from that. Again, I guess we all draw our lines somewhere.

I'm Gay. Deal With It, Strugglers.

Note: I'll sort of "preface" this, ex post facto, with a slightly more objective (read "drier") post: Power In Labels.

Every once in a while, I can't hold back from addressing a hot-button issue any longer. In this case, the issue is whether I'm "gay".

I think there's an idea in LDS culture that when people who experience same-sex attraction decide to stay active, they're not really "one of them". They're not "gay". They become de-sexualized eunuchs or ex-gays who are "trying to change". To say you're not sure you'll ever change, and you're OK with that, is to blaspheme the atonement, regardless of what you intend to do with that. And to say you're "gay" is to adopt all of the negative connotations of the word as part of your identity.

In some ways, it's true I'm not "one of them", IF "gay" means "one who actively pursues same-sex partnership" or "one who prances around in tiny jeans cut-offs". If gay means "one who is primarily attracted to men", then I'm gay, folks.

Some people have expressed surprise that I'm "one of them" when I tell them I'm LDS or "Mormon". They didn't think LDS people could withhold judgement or could be fun, or they didn't think Mormons could leave their polygamist ranches or drive cars. Should I refuse to label myself as LDS because most of society where I live thinks that means I have 18 wives and sacrifice people in the temple? Or should I maybe approach it differently, educating them about what it really means to be "Mormon".

If the Gay United Nations issues an edict proclaiming "gay" to mean "never attracted to girls in any way" and "fully supportive of and actively seeking same-sex partnerships", then I guess I'll have to bow to the authorities, the owners of "gay", and call myself something else. Queer? Homosexual? Same-sex attracted? More attracted to men than to women? Struggler? Tell you what, I'll make that call when the owners of "gay" count me out.

Until then, I (kind of) understand where you "not gays" or "strugglers" are coming from.

Perhaps you want to keep that big, bad homosexuality properly contained in its verbal cage so it doesn't leak out and take over your bloodstream and your psyche. Just like "American", "black", "journeyer", "Mormon", "Sigma Alpha Epsilon", or "PhD" might taint your identity as a son or daughter of God with culturally loaded distractions.

Perhaps you don't want the labels that come with "gay" or "homosexual" because people's perceptions are wrong. Nevermind doing anything to change those perceptions. And nevermind that calling yourself LDS often conjures images and prejudices that probably have nothing to do with you. But defending what "LDS" means is important because it's not just one aspect of your life, right? Defending what "LDS" means is so important because you have to do missionary work. Defending what "LDS" means is important because you don't want LDS kids growing up feeling freakish and rejected by non-LDS society and committing suicide or otherwise feeling alone and helpless because they think others view them as dirty, devilish, and faithless and could never understand what they're going through.

Or maybe you don't want anyone mistakenly thinking of you as one who engages in same-sex sexuality in any form (pardon my slight eye-roll as I recall the "not gays" whose stories are just as tawdry and disconcerting as any openly gay folks I know). Or you at least want them to know that you think it's wrong, even if you DO have at least as many compulsive, non-committal sexual experiences with others of your sex as any average gay person.

Don't get me wrong: I know "strugglers" aren't all just whores in disguise. And I understand that many are simply wrestling, or "struggling", with how to respond to same-sex attraction in gospel-centered and productive ways, and that's respectable. But really, doesn't framing it that way make life one big struggle? Isn't life about responding in gospel-oriented, productive ways, to everything around us? If you're really so concerned about labels, do you really want to wade through life regarding it as a constant "struggle"? Really? OK, but try to respect the fact that I choose to frame it differently, and I'll try to respect your choice to somehow think you're not "gay".

And I realize not all those who reject the term "gay" also adopt "struggler". There are some who reject "gay" and favor other words, like "same-sex attracted" or "SGA". Whatever. You have your reasons. I felt that way once, too, to some extent.

To be honest, when I first talk with people, I often choose not to say "gay" right off the bat because they may worry I've become part of a smutty culture, or they may offer to set me up with their attractive, available gay friend. I usually refer to myself as same-sex attracted until they understand where I'm coming from. Once it's understood that I'm not a fan of leather and chains or pink feather boas, I casually use "gay". And when they demonstrate the ability to joke about the topic, they're educated on the usage of "moho", just for fun. And the girls are often pleased to be counted as "mohoneys".

06 December 2008

Sometimes I Struggle...

...to keep my thoughts pure while watching Heroes.

I'm just sayin'.

05 December 2008

Gay SLC Couple Kidnapped Children?

First, a couple of thoughts as preface:

A) I'm not sure how I feel about categorizing certain criminal acts as "hate crime". Isn't a crime just a crime? Should it matter, in the eyes of the law, whether it was committed because the victim was a random target or a member of a hated group? I'm not sure...but maybe that's another conversation for another time.

B) I don't think every crime committed against a member of a protected minority group is a "hate crime". Most often, it's just personal. Or it's random. Playing the victim card excessively amounts to crying wolf.

That said, I'm troubled by this story about a gay couple who were beaten by their neighbors after allegedly kidnapping the neighbors' kids. Please at least skim it before continuing, if you haven't already seen it.

The news account, when combined with a very unflattering picture of the victim/suspect in which he looks like what most people think of when hearing the phrase "child molester", paints a rather unsympathetic picture of the gay couple who are the victims of this violence. It's easy to read this story and think, "DUH! You kidnap kids, you get the tar beaten out of you. Don't expect to come crying to anyone or spouting this hate crime victim crap."

I mean, look at the story: a nice family was having a party, when their neighbor sneaked over to their house and took their two children into his home without telling their parents. After the mother of one of the kids came to rescue them and took them home, relatives went over to the neighbor's house and beat him and his partner (claiming not to have known the kids were already back with their families).

As I read it, I thought, "Wait, this doesn't sound like the story I heard from a friend who knows this gay couple's circle of friends. If what I heard is just hearsay, and what's in the story are the facts, then I must admit this does change the story a bit."

Yet there are a few things that I find really disconcerting about this case:

A) IF the assailants didn't know the kids were with their family when they went over to beat the crap out of them, I can only come up with a few possible reasons for that:
1 - They were drunk out of their minds, and reason was not in the picture.
2 - They didn't give the victim even a chance to explain that he didn't have the kids anymore.
3 - They are all deaf and blind.
4 - It's true they didn't know the kids were home when they WENT over, but once they were there, they learned the kids weren't there, and they proceeded to beat the crap out of the victims anyway.

B) Why wasn't the alleged intoxication of the assailants brought into this news story?

C) Lesson hopefully learned: taking someone's kids into your home without parental permission is STUPID. REALLY, REALLY STUPID. Extremely, terribly bad judgment. Speaking objectively. Of course, when you read (and hear from friends) that the children looked distressed and were unable to sleep and very willingly and freely accepted an offer for a comfortable place to rest while their family was having (by all the hearsay I've heard) a noisy, drunken party, perhaps it was bad judgment but nothing nefarious. Maybe? Possible? And aren't we talking about neighbors, here, not strangers down the street? I realize we Americans aren't big on knowing our neighbors, but it's still different from some random passer-by ushering them into their car to take them home.

D) The story makes it sound like it's just settled and properly assumed that the guy did "kidnap" the kids. Granted, it looks really bad IF you don't trust the guy. But if you consider the possibility that his alternative was to tell their drunken, obnoxious relatives to grow up and take care of their own kids and possibly get the kids in trouble for making their parents look bad, maybe it doesn't seem as bad? A friend told me about this incident long before I heard it in the news. He's connected to the circle of friends who assert the victim is a kind man who would certainly not have questionable motives with the children. And the comments on this article show a lot of other voices coming to the defense of the victims. Where are the defenses of the family who committed the violent crime?

F) Not enough evidence to prosecute the assailants? What is there not enough evidence for? The news story says the assailants said they didn't know the kids weren't there when they went over there. Doesn't that pretty explicitly state they admit they did this? So they clearly committed the beatings. Is what makes it ineligible for prosecution the fact that this man took the kids without their parents' permission? And if this had been a 75-year-old man or a 35-year-old woman who took the kids in, would the situation be different? I'm inclined to think the lack of prosecution isn't about law but is mostly about preconceived notions, assumptions, and quite possibly terrible prejudice, not just because he's gay but because he's a male and he's not old and wrinkled.

G) I've also heard that this kind of retribution is pretty much indicative of Polynesian culture (in case you missed it in the news story--they don't mention it--the people who beat the guys up are Polynesian): you mess with the family, you pay the price. That's how disputes are settled in some cultures. So I can appreciate that this may very well have happened regardless of the couple's sexual orientation. Except that they probably wouldn't have beaten a man's wife and automatically assumed she was part of it, though you could possibly chalk that up to gender more than to orientation. But some accounts (keep in mind the accounts are probably from friends of the victims) say they yelled about beating up the faggots, not about beating up the child molesters or the kidnappers or the dirtbags.

So I'm bothered by this story. It may very well be that the victim is a pervert or otherwise untrustworthy man who had impure intentions in bringing the children to his house. It may be that there's a long history of tension between these neighbors, and this man has been pushing their buttons in numerous ways for years, and he finally broke the camel's back when he involved their children. Maybe. But I'm suspicious of the way this story was written and whether the police are handling it honestly. Why are we definitely pursuing charges regarding the alleged "kidnapping" in which no apparent harm was done but definitely not pursuing charges regarding the brutal beating? Is this one of those examples of useless, trashy "good ol' boy" culture in which the cop looks at the beaten child molester, shrugs, and says, "Hell, I woulda done the same thing," and that's somehow respected by the judgmental masses as the kind of justice we need more of? I'm not saying that's what it is. As I said, if the news story is more accurate than the story being circulated (unopposed, as far as I can tell) by friends of the victims, then all is probably as it should be. But unfortunately, it's hard for me to fully trust it is so.