07 December 2008

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".


pinetree said...

Is this because I labeled out Scrabble game "Struggler Scrabble?" Because if so that was just a joke.

Scrabble is just gay, nothing struggly about it. ;)

Original Mohomie said...

Ha, I loved that title. Between our "Struggler Scrabble" game and a post I read elsewhere, I was just inspired to sound off a bit as I've been wanting to for months. It just had to be done.

Kengo Biddles said...

I don't jump right out there and tell people I'm gay -- but one thing that bugs me the most is when people refer to this as an affliction.

I'm afflicted with a great fashion sense (even though I don't have the $$ to dress that way)?

I'm afflicted with a greater sensitivity than my straight counterparts?

I'm afflicted with compassion for people like me?

Yeah ... that bugs.

I think the way you've summed it up is much how I feel, O-Mo.

The Boob Nazi said...

I almost peed my pants when I read "one who prances around in tiny jeans cut-offs." Thank you for the best laugh I've had today!

Ninny Beth said...

I think I might struggle with LOVING YOUR BLOG!


Josh said...

I could've sworn that I saw you prance around once in tiny cut-offs.

Maybe that was just a dream.

Hope everything is going well for you!

robert said...

brilliantly written post. will you please repost this at northern lights.

Silus Grok said...

I've been fortunate … as an out man in my ward and stake, the only folks that seem to have a problem with it are other gays. And those are rare.


And ditto on the "affliction" language.

* gag *

One Thousand Otonos said...

This answered sooooo many of the questions I have been meaning to ask you for clarification purposes. As always it was both enlightening and entertaining while maintaining a (dare I say it?)straight course. hee hee hee

More importantly: Do I qualify for Mohoney status yet? Do I get to be added to your short list? These things matter, Jota!