17 May 2009

Coming Out Story - Can't Say I Blame Her, But...

Following my comments is an exchange which took place over a few days with an old acquaintance (names changed) from a singles ward many years ago. While not especially distressing, I was a little saddened and disappointed by it. But it also spurred some self-examination.

I've had a couple of other friends respond similarly at first, informing me I know what is right and true and imploring me to just keep trying. Perhaps she believes her response to be reproving betimes with sharpness then showing forth an increase of love with the "hugs". Regardless of tone, I can't blame her for her views. Let's be honest: many or most of my friends and family who are active LDS probably think similarly (as I used to), even if they use different lines of reasoning, and are just more diplomatic, subtle, or reserved in expressing it. I think to most faithful mormons, not actively seeking to marry in the temple is knowingly giving up eternal life in exchange for temporal happiness or comfort. But that aspect of her response wasn't new, and I'm OK agreeing to disagree on some things, even though I really do agree with most of what she said, even about keeping "eternal perspective" (if the LDS doctrinal perspective is, indeed, truth).

Her final message elicited more of a reaction from me. I frowned for a moment, gave a single sad chuckle, shrugged in a moment of "that's too bad", then took a moment to see where she might be right about me being more worldly and self-centered than I used to be. I have to admit I might be. I also might instead be something else that appears worldly and self-centered because of differences in beliefs and paradigms. But she would probably (maybe rightly) insist that's just justification. I can't deny the possibility. While I must admit I expend much less energy rejecting "worldly" things than I used to, I'm pretty sure truth, not temporal goods, pleasure, or comfort, is the desire and effort of my heart and mind, so the "worldly" comment doesn't bother me. The "self-centered" comment is slightly more troublesome. Of course, she doesn't know me anymore, and this is the first communication we've had in many years. Her reasoning is based on very little. Yet while I don't put much stock in what people who barely know me judge, I do sometimes wonder whether they're saying what others think but don't say because they would have more to lose in being a bit more...blunt. Maybe the only reason it concerns me is because I suspect it myself.

Ah well. I've marked "self-centered" on my mental tally board of traits people see in me (as a "medium-priority" item because while I'm not convinced it's one of my larger traits, I believe self-centeredness to be loathsome and rampant). But with temporary, perhaps overly-perfunctory focus on whether I really am and in what ways, I'm moving on and chalking that one up with the "Somewhat Unpleasant" coming out stories. Fortunately, the "Remarkably Uneventful" group is much larger. Those of us in minority groups (whether religious, gender, ethnic, sexual orientation, political, vegetable preference, etc) can certainly identify with the fact that the experience of revealing those aspects about ourselves can fall on a wide spectrum between devastation and elation. This one was on the devastation side because it felt kind of demeaning and gross to have someone who had been so enthusiastic become so sour and seemingly dismissive. I suppose we all do that to each other sometimes, usually unintentionally. And we all take things the wrong way or overly personally sometimes, too. Fortunately, I think as we become more secure with and accepting of ourselves, such experiences have smaller, more temporary effect either on the devastation or elation side. It's nice to be getting to that point. I may just let her have the last word.

The conversation:

Okay - so I don't do this as a habit, but I gotta know. Are you single? As in not interested in anyone at the moment but open to possibilities single? Because (and I know you've heard this a million times to, at which I express my apologies ahead of time) I know someone you might find yourself enjoying her company. She is here on facebook, and I believe she is living somewhere in Utah at the moment, she is a friend of mine that I spent many a year at girls camp with. And really, I don't do this. Ever. But after looking at your profile and her profile (many time after having the thought occur to me) I thought that you two might get along famously and would probably be food friends.

Ha, you're the second person in a week to ask about setting me up with someone, and that hasn't happened in...well...years. Funny. :-) It's almost a relief to know that at least some people think I have some measure of desirability even though I'm almost 30!

Well, with everything up in the air right now and life being really quite unstable in almost every major way, I think now is not the time to try a blind date or whatnot. I've been just sticking to the old, established friends. BUT if there are cool people I should meet, I probably should try to be open to that. ...but it's hard right now. I mean, even if we hit it off famously, I don't know if I'll be here a month from now or if I'd have any interest in anything besides friendship. But maybe I'll take a rain check? :-)

Please take this in the nicest way possible. You are a wuss. :D I have no intentions of setting you up on a blind date. Those are awkward and old fashioned. Actually, I was just going to suggest her as a friend here on facebook. And suggest you as a friend to her. Where it goes from there, I have no control over. But - I didn't want to go suggesting a desirable young woman to you if you were involved with someone else. Now, I want to you read over everything you just wrote me and ask yourself "What is it that I'm really afraid of?" K? Excuses! Involve yourself with someone - it's good for the soul to stick it out there once in awhile. So - I am now going to send a message to her, and with her permission, will be suggesting a friend, so look for it.

Anyhow - I'm glad you are my friend and I look forward to your updates and tidbits of info that you pass along. It amuses and makes me ponder. It's great therapy for an old frumpy housewife.

Ha, you think you're so smart, ya punk.

I don't add people I don't already personally know unless they're spouses or siblings of friends and I figure we're going to meet soon, that sort of thing. I know it's a strict policy, but it exists for reasons. :-)

But do what you will, and if you can persuade me to make an exception (like if she and I happen to have mutual friends and may cross paths eventually anyway), so be it. I like knowing fun and interesting people, even if romance is unlikely, which I say because there's a reason I've never had a "real" relationship, and it ain't because of lack of options. I didn't feel for the girls I "dated" the way I thought I should or the way they seemed to feel for me, and I felt so bad for hurting them with my apparent indifference or my inexplicable lack of ability to return the feelings they expressed in the same way. I wondered if I was emotionally handicapped and wouldn't allow myself to love how I should. I loved, respected, and enjoyed them, but it eventually dawned on me (in my mid-twenties) that my romantic interest in them was mostly fleeting, and I had no sexual interest in them, and things started to click. Not long thereafter, I finally felt for someone in a way that suddenly made all the sappy love songs, romantic movies, and parental and church counsel about relationships make sense. A guy? I fell for a guy? Ah, crap. Really? Well what am I supposed to do with that? :-)

So my natural inclinations would have me in a relationship that isn't exactly church-supported, but I also don't want to betray truth to go after what seems like it would make me happy. What to do with being gay and LDS but somewhat agnostic LDS is one of those things that's "up in the air" for me right now. Even if I found Mr. or Mrs. Right, I'd have no business starting a relationship right now because I'm trying to sort out what I believe and what I want. So I want to avoid any pretense of me being a Peter Priesthood waiting for the right Molly to come along, y'know? :-)

Why am I going off on this? I suppose I could just shrug and not say anything and let you wonder why I'm such a wuss, but I thought it better to actually let you know part of why I'm such a wuss. :-) I also didn't want to dismiss your potential match-making by blurting, "Girls are boring, guys are hot," because I'm not totally closed to the idea of meeting a cool girl who "does it for me" and makes me want to try a relationship, especially since I'm not convinced a lifetime relationship with a guy is what I want either, particularly if all this Mormon doctrine stuff is true. :-) It's just that I don't have any particular interest in dating girls, and I'm wary of hurting any more of them unnecessarily. BUT I don't want "I'm gay" to be a copout, and it seems to me that you would be able to call me on it if I tried to use it as one 'cause you're sassy like that.

So that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Well I had my suspicions and you certainly gave me a lot to think about! I admire and respect your personal moral courage in dealing with such a trial in your life. And I thank you for sharing - you are right that I wouldn't let you off the hook so easy. You know what is right. You have a testiomony of the truthfulness of the gospel. Don't let Satan lead you astray with his whisperings of doubt. Be diligent! Hold to the rod! You know what is right and sometimes we need to go through the motions to stay ourselves when our faith is faltering. Are you attending your regular Sunday meetings? Are you saying your prayers daily? Are you studying the scriptures on a regular basis? Heavenly Father has given us these tools to help us through such trials in life. I'm sure you've heard this all before. I know you are a good guy, heck, you've made it this far! Don't give up now!

And now some insight from an old married woman. (Yes I can say that. I've been married 10 yrs in August, I think it gives me some credibility, finally....) I think all too often we are disenchanted in our youth with the ideals of what marriage should be. Yes it would be ideal to find a soul mate with whom we can enjoy the twittering of birds singing romantic songs as we walk along moon lit beaches, but in all reality, that is not what marriage is all about. Sure it helps to have the hots for one's mate, but in all reality, Heavenly Father's plan for marriage has a different agenda. We have been admonished through many a prophet to temper the emotions of our hearts. Lust is such an emotion. It does come in handy in the bedroom, but is not altogether necessary. As we get older, you will find that the maturity level of available women has increased dramatically, especially that of faithful sisters. And there is a chance that they understand this concept as well. The concept that marriage is not simply an arrangement between two people who can't get enough of each other, but truly a trial of our own character and our ability to put someone else's needs above our own. Friendship is the basis of this, and I believe that honest to goodness true love does not come until years later. Because love is an action, it is not a feeling. Love is kind, love is long suffering. (Need I go into verse after verse of this in Bible?) I guess what I am saying is that I know that you know what your sacred duty is, and now is the time to pull life up by the bootstraps, be completely honest with yourself and those around you and faithfully find a wife who will love and accept you for who you are. ALL of you. Yes, there is such a woman out there, but the Lord helps those who help themselves. How active have you been in seeking out the answer? Are you doing your all to help the Lord, as you have covenented to do?

You can go on and give me more excuses, but I think you know in your heart what is right and what is true. We all have trials in our lives, and I believe the strongest of us have been handed the biggest trials. Just think of your spiritual muscles waiting to be pumped up! (You stud!) Remain faithful as your blessings in the life after are already piling up and it would be a shame for them to go to waste.

And I must share some anecdotal evidence of my beliefs, of course.
I know a man who decided...that he just had too many issues and he didn't want to burden anyone with his problems. [...] So he was never going to get married. It just wasn't for him. Well, fast forward [many] years. He is now sitting in jail for embezzling [...]. I believe that if he had found a wife (through being completely honest with himself and doing as I suggest to you) that perhaps this heartache he has caused for everyone around him may have been eased or avoided all together. He has been excommunicated. [...] And yet he still maintains his pride by saying that he just can't believe the judge was so harsh as to make him serve jail time. [Certain details omitted to make it less specific.]

As a man who holds the priesthood you have already committed yourself to a course of action for your life. I suggest to hold to your promises, for the Lord has said it will be worse for those who knowingly sin than for those who sin in ignorance. Please, I beg of you, keep your eternal perspective in view.

I'm not saying you should just get married and have a lot of babies, but at least enter into a sacred commitment with a faithful woman to be your companion for life, to keep you on the straight and narrow. You are a strong man, and I know that you can do it.

Okay - I'm sushing now.

Thanks for the concern and encouragement. There's a lot more to my concerns with theology and doctrine than homosexuality, but those are mine to deal with the best I know how, so I won't try to justify or excuse myself or declare what faithful or academic efforts I've made or am making. I'll just say that I feel well and at peace.

I also appreciate your perspective on marriage, and I believe love is action as much as it is emotion. What else other than that active, selfless kind of love will propel people through downturns of passion and affection to a stronger bond of dedication and investment? Our society has glorified sex beyond anything justified by either reality or doctrine. It blinds and deceives many people into thinking love is something baser and cruder than it is, yet more "exciting"...and more fleeting.

Homosexuality, however, is not just about the sex or the lust or the butterflies in the tummy. It's a bit more complex to deal with, but there are many who marry women and live in happy marriages IF they take that step when they're ready and with solid support and self-awareness. I've seen many a disaster from men or women allowing themselves to be pressured into jumping in too quickly or recklessly. I've seen far too many hearts broken, families distressed or torn apart, and wives secretly crying themselves to sleep because men foolishly thought they were "cured" or "over it" and didn't go into the marriage for truly selfless reasons, sensitive to her needs, but to "fulfill God's plan" and "get a family". Many of those couples seem fine to most people, but the wife's [relative] gets tearful calls from her regularly, or only a few select friends know that the husband has made out with several of his guy friends while his wife tries to deal with that, or that the guy seems fine on the surface but feels deeply and increasingly unfulfilled in his marriage...it's tough stuff. But like I said, I know couples who seem to be doing great, and every marriage has its challenges, so I refuse to use imperfection as an excuse, as if the only successful marriage is a perfect one. It's just a bigger deal, I think, than most people are aware, because there are deep emotional needs on the gay person's part and psychological effects on the spouse which require an exceptionally strong, patient person to not only cope with but progress through.

If you believed God commanded it, you probably could have entered into a marriage relationship with another woman and decided not to pursue something with your husband because to do so would have been "wrong". But try to keep in mind how hard that might have been for you, to turn away from him because you were supposed to find a woman, to leave what you had for unknown territory, and then to date women with the purpose of finding a wife, believing that your heart wanted to be with a man, and while all of your counsel above would still be totally valid, it might offer a perspective of patience with those of us wrestling with the questions of how to proceed. :-)

Well O-Mo, I'm sure we could go the rounds on this. You saying I don't understand because I"m not in your shoes and me saying what I have already said. Sin is sin, our bodies will always need tempering and the need for self control has never been greater. I still hear echoes of justification that has lulled you into complacency and indifference, which makes my heart ache just a bit for you. Focus on your purpose, not your problems. I won't be sending along that friend request, because quite frankly, you are not the person I thought you were, or perhaps who I remember you to be. You have grown a bit more worldly and self centered than I remember.

I still look forward to your posts, as a broader prospective on life always is appreciated and helps in understanding those around me.

Hugs -



Marlo said...

wait, this is the entirety of the conversation? she went from wanting to recommend a facebook friend to judging you as "more worldly and self centered" based on the totality of the above conversation? Really? Well there's a nice way to avoid the mental work of truly considering another person's viewpoint - just write them off as worldly or something similar and that's that. Nice and simple...

Original Mohomie said...

Yeah, that's the whole conversation.

El Genio said...

I find her perrspective on marriage frightening. Yes, I realize that marriage is no cakewalk, but I think that we are perfectly capable of true love before marriage. I also think that entering into a marriage where you aren't at least minimaly attracted to your partner on some level is incredibly unfair to both individuals.

Gay LDS Actor said...

She sounded slightly reasonable to me until her final comments. I understand where she's coming from and also understand very well where you're coming from, but to come off so dismissive in the end turned me off.

D-Train said...

Two comments:

(1) I too am disappointed in how "you have grown a bit more worldly and self centered than I remember." :P

(2) You need some new friends. You know, the real kind.

Max Power said...

Sounds to me like your friend Jill is in a shi**y marriage.

And honestly, I'm over people like that in my life who want to instantly lecture me on how I should live mine without taking my perspective into account. They are the ones that get deleted from the facebook friend list and ignored.

With friends like her, who needs enemies?

Original Mohomie said...

El Genio, I'm hoping she's not really saying there needn't be any attraction whatsoever or that the foundation of true love can't be laid from the beginning (although I agree about real, lasting love not typically showing up in early romantic, giddy partnerships). She's probably coming from the perspective that surely even a same-sex attracted man could be attracted to some women at least to some extent because same-sex attraction is not innate and unchangeable, particularly with enough faith and works, which is a view held by many even among gay mormons. But I can't speak for her, and she's not "here"...

D-Train and Max Power, she and I were in the same ward many years ago. More of a friendly acquaintance than a "friend", I'd say, so I had no solid expectations for her reaction. I decided not to delete her (though the thought certainly crossed my mind). I won't be bearing my soul to her, either, mind you. But though this'll likely be a point of tension between us, there are probably things we can learn from each other along the way if we're both willing to move on from it and let it go.

She's a good girl. I imagine she's mostly as I remember her: goofy, fun-loving, enjoys challenging people's paradigms. I didn't intend this post to be about "bashing the bigot," having everyone tell me I'm right and she's mean (though that doesn't hurt *wink*), or anything like that but to explore what it's like to deal with that kind of a reaction.

Gay LDS Actor, I too think most of her comments are reasonable, as I said to her. I, like you, was mostly thrown by the last message. It stung a bit, but a couple of hours later, I was happily making a delicious key lime pie from scratch and only incidentally puzzling about her reply.

robert said...

As Non-LDS, it sort of amazes me how much emphasis is placed on the "eternal perspective". I have read the material, but the only way that someone accepts such doctrine is through the function of "belief". It is hardly rocket science to invent a belief system and propose that everyone follow it. Meaning: its been done a few hundred times before in history. If the LDS were perhaps a little MORE worldly, they could move beyond the concept of 19th century gender norming, cultural capitulation by family pressue and marital relationships.

Ezra said...

Wow, she sounds like she just did a 180 because she didn't want/have to listen to what you were saying.

I've done that exercise with people where you ask them to imagine that God commanded them to marry someone of the opposite sex, and could they do it...

it pisses them off, and generally ends the conversation, because they think "god would never ask that" forgetting that the point of the exercise is to show what a dilema moho's are put in.

Original Mohomie said...

I've never had the "think of it this way" example end a conversation before. I think some people take it as justification, though, without really stopping to consider what it would be like to be in those shoes. And again, who can blame people for not wanting to look at how difficult something might be for someone and risk empathizing at the expense of offering "strength" and "encouragement"? Obviously, someone dragging their feet to follow God's plan is not in need of sympathy or understanding (which will only enable their slothfulness) but correction and a good slap upside the head to snap them out of it.


Robert, belief is indeed required for the eternal perspective. But gender norms and cultural constructs aside, the point of maintaining an eternal perspective isn't JUST to remember the apparent reason for the existence of gender and procreative abilities/drives but to remember that in the grand scheme, this life is a blip of our existence, certainly not worth trading eternal happiness for cosmically momentary satisfaction. Of course, in matters of romantic love and companionship, that's a pretty tough test of "eternal perspective". Not impossible, I suppose, but tough.

Alan said...

I think the "give up the 'momentary' desires of your heart in this life as a trade for eternal happiness later" argument would carry more weight with me if (1) I saw any other group in the Church told to do something so supremely difficult and otherwise contrary to gospel teachings based not on what they did but simply on who they were, (2) the Church's statements on homosexuality and other controversial social issues hadn't fluctuated so much to the point of making me doubt that any of it was inspired, and (3) I hadn't seen the true love and happiness of so many gay couples together and the true misery that can come from denial.

In my experience, those like Jill, your friend, who recite the standard line about "struggling with your trial" and "give up mortal happiness for eternal reward" have never actually thought more than superficially about this whole issue. A year ago I heard my sister make homophobic remarks all the time. A few months ago I came out to her. Now her perspective has completely changed, she no longer believes much of what she used to, and she is starting to have some very tough questions for the Church about this issue as well. Just because there was a personal connection that put an actual human face on what was previously an abstract theoretical issue.

Perhaps if Jill's brother came out to her, she might not be so glib.

A girl you know said...

'Cause us women are supposed to get married to be baby-makers you know (in this life, and the next). Romantic attraction (not to mention everything else) be damned!

Not to attempt any meanness at her... it's just a huge culture that tells you things in this jargon can be blinding. Oh, no wait. It's us who are deceived and leaving room for the devil when we question. (Which saddens me, 'cause I used to be so happy that the whole thing was FOUNDED on questioning.)

Dang, sorry. This all came out snide and anti-LDS and not what I'm trying to do. I don't know how to say it other ways right now, though.