29 September 2009

Fooling Yourselves 2

Whose is the defensive voice in the previous post? Take your pick. "Chris" is a gender-ambiguous name.

28 September 2009

Fooling Yourselves

"You're fooling yourself," they say, "You can never be happy in an unnatural relationship. You might feel happy in the moment, and you might think you're in love, but it can't possibly bring you lasting joy. When the giddiness and the excitement of having found someone wear off, where will you be then? What will come of your 'true love'? You know the statistics don't support the success of that kind of relationship, right? They don't last, and if they do, it's in unhealthy ways."

"I'm happy, and I love Chris, and we want to spend our lives together and give ourselves to each other fully. We'd like to form a family."

"Oh, you do not want to bring kids into that. It's not fair to them. They deserve a stable home with a mom and a dad who love each other and stay together. What you're doing is selfish."

"What we're doing is following our hearts and acting on the love we feel and the dedication we want to make to each other. This feels right, it is what makes us happy, and we are willing to defy society's expectations and do what it takes to prove them wrong. We know it's not always going to be sunshine and roses, we know there will be hard times, and we know there will be bumpy roads ahead when infatuation and passion wane and reality sets in. We know a large portion of society will never accept or validate our relationship, but we don't live by polls. We live by what we believe is right and what we feel in our hearts. We're willing to commit 100% to each other because we are in love."

"That's not love, it's a counterfeit. You just want it to be love because you want to justify your actions and live this fantasy someone has convinced you is real. You want everyone to believe you're living an acceptable lifestyle, but it's all about you getting what you want without accepting who you are supposed to be, who you are meant to be."

"Like it or not, believe it or not, we're in love. You didn't have to defend your love to anyone, and I don't have to defend mine to you. I appreciate your concern, but I know what I believe, and I know what's in my heart, and this relationship is what Chris and I believe is the best thing for both of us. We're better together, we bring out the best in each other, we've never been happier, and we're dedicated to each other through thick and thin. When we're emotionally and financially ready, we'd like to bring children into our home and raise them to be good, loving, productive citizens."

You're going to make your own decisions. That's fine. But I just don't think you're being honest with yourself. You're caving to pressure from others like you who aren't being completely honest with you about the reality of relationships like yours. They've put a glossy veneer on it, and you've bought into it. It makes me sad to know that you've allowed them to get into your head and deceive you this way. It's not what you think it's going to be. It can't be. It's based on smoke and mirrors and will most likely end badly. I just don't want to see you hurt...

26 September 2009

Not That Simple

Don't mistake my cool-headedness for lack of passion.

Don't confuse my frankness with trust.

Don't confuse my kindness with affection.

Don't mistake my respect for adoration.

Don't confuse my principled approach with lockstep obedience.

Don't interpret my disagreement with your opponent as agreement with you.

Don't mistake my skepticism for disapproval.

Don't mistake my reserved appearance for lack of enthusiasm.

Don't confuse my objectivity with lack of conviction.

Don't mistake my diplomacy for timidity.

Don't interpret my smile and listening ear as naivety.

I could go on, but suffice it to say, it's just not that simple. It never has been.

Addendum: this isn't meant to be a rant. It's just a clarification stemming from a conversation I had with someone over tacos al pastor yesterday and isn't aimed at specific people. I wrote these partially to remind myself that perceptions aren't always what they seem and that if I have such a list, I'd do well to try not to misread others as I have often been misread. "Simple" as that... ;-)

24 September 2009

Crushing on Adam

It's official: I have a new mini-crush. Throughout Confessions of a Shopaholic, I was trying to figure out whether Hugh Dancy was crushable or not. Throughout Adam (which was a great flick), I just kept saying, "Oh my gosh, as this character he's friggin' adorable and I wanna spoon him." That's all.

23 September 2009

Infiltrating Evergreen

Due primarily to not having much money to throw around, I didn't go to either the Affirmation or the Evergreen Conference this year, contrary to my whims of curiosity. At least, not exactly...

Saturday morning, I met up with an acquaintance visiting from out of town for breakfast. While he was waiting for me to arrive, he popped into the now-infamous Elder Hafen talk. I got a couple of entertaining text messages, such as, "I've heard the word 'struggle' five times in the three minutes I've been listening," and "He's preaching the gospel of reparative therapy."

My arrival saved--I mean, prevented--him from hearing more, and we went to grab breakfast at the Nauvoo Cafe in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. Ever had muffin tops there? Pretty decent, despite the unpleasant images the name conjures. As we sat outside talking, a small group of men with a video camera looked at us inquisitively, and I couldn't help but wonder if they were with Affirmation because they just...had that look. You know the look: gay face with religious bitterness, smugly and confidently superior in their embraced sexual identity. Hey, for all the crap Evergreeners get, don't even try to deny Affirmationers have a look, too. I decided to ignore their gaze and have a pleasant conversation with my breakfast date...er...non-date. After a good chat, he was off, and I realized I only had an hour and a half until Evergreen got out for lunch, so I loitered in the lobby of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in front of the elevators to await the outpouring of Evergreenies beaming with newfound belonging and hurriedly hiding their incriminating name tags.

After greeting several acquaintances bouncing out of the elevators and meeting some new ones, I ran to grab some lunch to-go with some friends. At the Lion House Pantry, the cashier was a funny, somewhat bubbly girl who asked what everyone was dressed up for. I figured my friends didn't want me answering because I would've said something like, "We're attending a conference for LDS homosexuals who want to live church standards and maybe even marry and have families. Many of these guys would like to take a nice young woman such as yourself to the temple someday. I'm pretty sure nobody right here is quite ready for that, but you seem to be flirting a bit, so if you'd like to give my friend your number, he'll call when he's feeling hetero enough to give it a go." I silenced myself and stifled my grin as I looked to my friends to answer. One of them, who had been counseled by a church leader not to reveal this aspect of himself except as inspired, didn't feel so inspired and instead replied, "We're attending a conference." She asked what kind of conference. "Oh, it's a conference about different kinds of therapy." The girl didn't seem quite satisfied with that clarification but nodded politely and said, "Oh, that's cool." I must admit I rolled my eyes and smiled as we left the restaurant and headed back to the conference.

As we stepped off the elevator onto the conference floor, I remembered that when I first went to Evergreen three years ago, I hoped there would be armed guards at the doors to make sure only registered guests entered, so curious passers by couldn't infiltrate the conference and take notes on who was attending. You know, sinister henchmen building a database of repressed mormon homos to spy on, so they can reveal when they fall to temptation, thereby bolstering the "gay agenda's" assertion that gays trying to live heternormative lifestyles are fooling themselves. Well, there are no such guards, so I was able to visit with friends without anybody seemingly caring whether I was a registered guest or not. Although I have to admit I was tempted to bring in my camera with its telephoto lens and randomly take pictures of the most nervous-looking faces, write some notes on a piece of paper, declare, "Another suspected struggler confirmed!" and run away. But I refrained.

In the hallway on the way back to the conference, where the post-lunch session was about to being, I ran into the family of one of a friend I'd had a semi-fling with. "What in tarnations is a 'semi-fling'?" you ask? I guess I consider it something more than just friendship but which couldn't reasonably be called an actual relationship, and without sex in any form. It's different from a friend with benefits because there was a strong romantic/passionate component, and it needn't have "benefits" to be a semi-fling. Clear as mud? Good. Moving on. For a long time, I felt somewhat awkward talking to them because I was the guy who got sort of romantically involved for a month or so with their son while they were all just beginning to deal with all of this. I felt stupid for having done so, especially since he'd introduced me to his dad, while this was going on, as someone involved with North Star and I'd thought, "Oh man, don't set me up as...what the @#$% am I doing with you? I really should know better." But it was good to see his family (I really do like them) and not feel the awkwardness I used to feel. Hopefully it's all water under the bridge at this point.

While I waited for a friend, I picked up one of the books being sold in the entrance area that was apparently being highlighted and is an anthology of clinical, ecclesiastical, and personal perspectives on homosexuality in the Church. I thought it looked interesting and was glad to see "personal stories" included. I opened it up and, since I'm somewhat well-connected in the LDS "SSA" community, figured I might recognize at least one name. No such luck. Then it dawned on me. Were these real names? Any of them? I flipped to one of the stories and found an asterisk next to the author's name. I was informed, by the corresponding footnote, that this was not the author's real name. Apparently, the leading authors believe nobody should use their real name in connection with this issue. Presumably "for the children" or some such noble reason. Right, <sarcasm>because this issue needs to be made less personal, with fewer actual faces.</sarcasm> ...don't get me started on this kind of thinking. While I believe anonymity in each forum should be maintained or broken in each person's own time table and in wisdom and order, and I understand the ramifications "coming out" can potentially have on current or unforeseen future families, I believe in changing the playing field over time, which can only come from courageous pioneers willing to take risks, and I believe the staunch assertion that all should remain anonymous is destructive and sometimes a form of old-school information-control. If you don't have real people telling their stories, nobody can follow up after ten years to see how they're doing, and nobody can rely on them as authorities with real lives, leaving the "authority" to the "experts" with PhDs. But I may be a touch cynical towards certain "experts".

Since I was already at the conference lobby, and I'd been to two Evergreen conferences in the past, and I've been pretty involved with overlapping communities (North Star) quite a bit in the past, and I know I'm respectful, and I knew so many people there, and I really was curious to see the crowd this year, and some friends were singing a musical number in the next session, I decided to stay for the post-lunch session. I sat towards the front with a friend and scanned the crowd: buttoned-up conservative repressed types, flamboyant-haired pretty types, regular Joes and ...Janes? you'd probably never expect to be gay, let alone attending an EG conference, parents and siblings with and without their gay--I mean, SSA--family members, the clusters of age-grouped guys magnetized to each other, the familiar faces from years past I've only ever seen at Evergreen conferences... The session opened with a prayer and intro and musical number. The guys sang beautifully. I must say the song selection was pretty "gay": "Go The Distance" from Disney's Hercules, but it was good. But what moved me almost to tears was not the lyrics or the music but the tension of juxtaposing the uncertainty of whether our paths would eventually lead in the same direction or diverge with the strong love I felt for these good-hearted guys I counted as friends.

The presentation was by Nicolosi, and I have plenty to say about it, but I think I'll save it for another post. What I will say is that despite his air of apparent arrogance and his sometimes offensive sense of humor, he was pretty engaging and funny, he doesn't sugar-coat things (which can be alternately refreshing and abrasive), and hearing his theory out of his mouth was much better than reading it online or hearing it from antagonists. I almost questioned whether he might be on to something, though not on the absolute scale he asserts, once I shoved my emotional reactions, pride, and PC sensibilities aside long enough to actually fairly consider his theory and statistics.

After that, I was actually tempted to stay for more of the conference. I could stay for the Q&A panels or for Nicolosi's second presentation. I could stalk out Boskers and find out who he is and whether our mutual love of jazz and manflesh are the only things we have in common. I could go to the friends and family session and see the parents begin to understand, or cry, or pump each other up about educating themselves and their wards to try to make sure no gay kid feels rejected or alone enough to attempt suicide or run away from home. I might have overheard the parent telling my friend they wished their son were like him and how proud his parents must be that he's hanging in there, along with his stifled expression as he wanted to tell them their son probably wouldn't appreciate them expressing their pride to someone they just met and whose frailties they don't even know. I might have overheard a friend getting interrupted, upon mentioning North Star during one session, by a prominent LDS social work professor who apparently proclaimed something to the effect of Evergreen not supporting North Star, who was countered by a wife who defended North Star to her. What the professor may not have known is that the vast majority of session attendees were grateful members of North Star's discussion groups. Oops. Wrong crowd, ma'am. I would've liked to see that exchange. But I didn't because I decided to take a nap at a friend's house instead, from which I awoke feeling mighty good.

The rest of my contact with the conference was incidental and uneventful. I chatted with friends I hadn't talked to in quite a while. I incidentally observed the demeanor of a certain well-known, cantankerous therapist, whose biggest fan I am not, and found his interactions to be about as I'd expected, though I must admit to the possibility of confirmation bias, mustn't I? *tongue in cheek* I met some new acquaintances. I had a paradigm or two re-challenged. I wondered whether that guy just tried to hit on me outside the chapel...

Some people leave the conference feeling broken or self-loathing, others like the opportunity to hook up with impressionable, vulnerable guys, others only see awkwardness and hypocrisy, and others leave feeling uplifted and hopeful and full of insight and energy. I come away feeling glad to have spent time with some good people with good hearts, having heard different perspectives, considering the stuff that I can't refute, discarding the stuff I just don't buy, having enjoyed a laugh or two at the awkwardness of some attendees, and understanding that of course some guys will be playing footsie under the table or are not there for the reasons the organizers would hope, but recognizing that many are sincere and well-behaved. I think it, like most things, is what you make of it and what you let your bias or perspective tell you. Evergreen conference: it may not be your cup of tea, but it's not so bad.

18 September 2009

More Laughs At Evergreen's Expense

I couldn't help but smile a bit wickedly at the first bullet point of a post I saw in my little newsfeed on my blog. It very briefly (in one short paragraph) pokes fun at the idea of a bunch of gay mormons gathering and having sleepovers during this weekend's Evergreen Conference, currently in progress. I just can't help but find it comical, considering all the sexual tension one can find at an Evergreen Conference, despite my assertion that it's not the meat market some people make it out to be.

Let's be honest, there are always going to be guys who "met at Evergreen" and either do naughty things together at some point or at least explicitly flirt with the idea at length. I mean, with the ideas some have of "healthy touch" (which is not an Evergreen thing but is an idea many Evergreeners are familiar with from other therapeutic endeavors), you just never know who's going to be engaging in their own version of it (and yes, I think it's usually their own version; what I think are the authentic theory and practice are, in my experience, rarely represented) and testing the boundaries between affection and eroticism. After all, it's the "safe" guys who aren't looking for a gay relationship that often get each other in trouble. And people come from out of town, stay with friends, etc, so of course there are often sleepovers, innocent though most of them may be, during the conference weekend.

Anyway, the post is on a site which apparently links to some unsavory sites, so I recommend not clicking the link if you're not good at controlling yourself in regards to avoiding sites you want to avoid. But I didn't see anything pornalicious on the page itself (though there were some shirtless blokes along the side), so if you want to see it, here it is.

Now if only we had a local branch of the MoHotel.

17 September 2009

A Porn Star Showed Me the Ropes

OK, calling him a porn star is an exaggeration. Let's go back to the beginning.

A long time ago in a land far away, I was a college student very involved with the Latter-day Saint Student Association, which volunteered members to help the university cater a Boys' and Girls' Club fundraiser banquet. In return, the LDSSA received funds from the university which could be used for things like replacing the Institute's pool table or air hockey table. It was a great gig, so the university's catering services didn't want to favor one organization over another and consequently only had each org help once...until they realized that the LDS students not only were a fairly professional-acting gang, but they didn't sneak the wine and steal the food as many of the other orgs (especially the fraternities) had done. It only took one time working with us before they decided we were the one organization they'd invite back regularly, which they did until I left (three years running up to that point).

But the drawback to a bunch of Mormon kids helping cater the banquet: many had never poured coffee or opened a wine bottle. What was our role? Pouring coffee and popping the corks on the wine for the attendees who had paid for the privilege of getting liquored up to lower inhibitions against spending inordinate amounts of money on auction items. We came away with fun stories: the old women hitting on us young guys with slurred lines, old men coming on to the young ladies, and tinges of guilty conscience as we poured mugs full of caffeinated sin. But oh, the bounty of culinary leftovers we were allowed to fill up on before going home made the whole thing well worth it.

Keep in mind, back in this time, I had yet to allow myself to realize that my homoness was not a mere phase of curiosity that I was simply still struggling to subdue after a decade of post-pubescence. And while refusing to accept my own affinity, I was keenly aware of it in others, and I was sometimes fascinated by subjects of my curiosity who seemed especially likely candidates for "those who have succumbed to the curiosity and turned it into an identity". One such subject was a caterer at this event. He was not a volunteer from a student org but a staff member of the university catering services, and his aloof, nose-in-the-air demeanor reflected that superiority. And no small nose it was, but it protruded from a rather attractive face perched atop a fairly nicely formed body, as far as I could tell from my side of his uniform, so nose-in-air or not, I was...intrigued.

Here was an attractive, potentially gay guy, and I was working side-by-side with him. I tried not to obsessively wonder whether he was gay, whether he could tell I was curious, or whether someone like him could ever find someone like me attractive ("If you were a girl lobster and I was a boy lobster at the bottom of the sea...would you find me attractive?"). I mostly failed, though, and obsessed quietly to myself, finding every opportunity to work near him. As we were shown the ropes, he took an instructing role. Before the banquet began, he showed me (and others) how to politely remove plates and set down glasses, how to pour, where to keep your hands when they're not in use, how to hold glasses or mugs to avoid putting your fingers on the lip, and how to pop the cork on a wine bottle. I remember his half-amused, half-exasperated expression at our ignorance. He seemed almost arrogant at times, but I was so fascinated by his possible homosexuality, and so drawn to his eyes, that I couldn't just push him aside and forget about it.

I would occasionally see him on campus or at a local department store (I'm remembering him as maybe working there, but my memory is hazy) and would wonder whether he remembered me, whether he had perceived my unspoken signals that I might want someone to understand what I was going through with this same-sex curiosity thing, even though I suspected he'd probably just wonder why I didn't date guys and be "true to myself," and I knew I was probably mostly interested in talking to him because, despite his apparent arrogance, he was quite good-looking. When we were called back to help with the banquet again the next year, I thought of him and how we'd be working in close quarters again. But he didn't give any sign that he recognized my existence. In fact, if he showed anything, it was deliberate disinterest, which is far more biting than true ignorance. I suspected he detected my semi-obsession and was annoyed by it, so I deliberately tried to be disinterested to quell his concerns that I might show up in his bedroom one night with a knife or something. Yes, even then, I realized how unhealthy this all was, wanting someone's attention but not wanting to actually initiate anything because I didn't know exactly what it was I wanted from him anyway. So I gave up. I decided I was being ridiculous, and he probably wasn't even gay, and either way, he was probably a jerk anyway or at the very least not at all interested in anything about me.

Fastforward several years. Not long ago, I was perusing Facebook, and through a mutual friend, I came across a name I hadn't thought of in years. It was the aloof caterer I'd wondered about but in a context I hadn't expected. Male model? Really? Nooooo. Yes. Here it was. Legit modeling shots. I Googled him. My, my, my. Well, would you look at this? Bloggers worldwide showcasing him as a highlighted stud of the week or male model to watch, often in provocative but non-nude photos. Apparently, he's bulked up 'cause he was not that muscular when I last saw him. And...oh...oh my...he made a video for....no, I shall not mention it, but suffice it to say it's no Disney production. I was tempted to find that video, even if only for the sheer morbid curiosity of seeing someone I've met in a naughty video (to answer your probable question, no, I haven't seen it, and I'm OK with that *wink*).

Hm. Well I was right about his sexuality, according to accounts. And he's got quite a bod on him these days, though not quite "my type". But I see his somewhat vacant, cold expression in all of his photos, and it just reminds me of that same detached aloofness that I saw back when we went to the same university. I have to wonder if I'd find him more attractive if I hadn't met him, but who knows? I don't feel any bitterness about his never noticing me: like I said, I got over wanting his attention years ago. But I guess what hit me is that it's funny to look back and think I was all intrigued by him just because he was good-looking and probably gay, when now I have no interest in him whatsoever and would reject any advances he might, in some imaginary world, make on me. It feels oddly good to know that I just don't care and that model or not, famous or not, naughty videos or not, he's just that guy who showed me the catering ropes and acted aloof, so I have no desire to ogle him. Am I weird? :-)

Makes me wonder whether pictures of hot models would lose most of their appeal if I knew each person as a real person, whether someone whose personality kills most of their physical beauty or someone I know too well to regard as simply an object of purely physical lust. And that reminds me, when I really think about it, why I'm not keen on the idea of objectifying people that way. But dang, some people are just screaming to be admired... *sigh*

15 September 2009

Different Little Black Book

I have a confession: I have a (mental) little black book that I don't typically talk about. I've had it since I first started meeting mohos and homos and what-have-you. So most people collect phone numbers, and when they want to go out, they'll open up their little black book and call someone from it to see if they want to go out. They may say, "Hey, this is O-Mo. I don't know if you remember meeting, but you came with some friends to a Christmas soiree my roommate and I held... You do remember? Yeah, I'm glad you had a good time. ...it was good to meet you too. ...You thought I was the hottest person there and loved my personality and wanted to jump me? Oh, thanks, that's sweet. I thought you were ridiculously adorable and seemed like a really sweet guy. I'd like to get to know you better. In fact, I'd like to go to the art festival in Salt Lake this week and was wondering if you'd be up for going with me?" ...you know, something along those lines. Except for most people, it's not a literal black book but maybe looking them up on Facebook or some dating site or something.

Well, there's a list I've kept, short though it may be, that I've told a few friends about. It's a mental list of people I would consider dating if I ever decide to "go gay" (an implied crossover, distinct from just "being gay"). It's not especially deliberate, and I couldn't tell you who's on it on demand, but the mental notes are there. I mean, if I decide I wanna start dating guys (no, I have not decided that), I'd like to have a ready pool, even a small one, of people I'd like to throw a line to. Granted, most of them probably wouldn't be too keen on dating a newbie of my age fresh out of conflicted mohodom, but since this is a basically hypothetical list anyway, that doesn't matter.

But come on, how many of you who are single can honestly say you don't have a hypothetical, even subconscious "If I go gay and you go gay" little black book? You can admit it...