14 November 2010

Moho self-absorption

Many of my straight/hetero friends have met many of my gay/SSA friends. They most often really like each other or at least get along fine. But if there's one thing my straight friends have most noted about the mohos, as opposed to other gay or straight friends they have, it's that they seem unusually self-absorbed. And they're not just talking about the self-denying ones or the newbies who are in their early stages of gay adolescence. I want to make it clear that these same friends have made it clear they genuinely like many of my moho friends and think they're nice, or fun, or accomplished, or whatever. But there's just a sort of lack of outward-reaching interest beyond occasional token gestures. And some of that can come from things like shyness of mohos around certain of my friends, or being new to hanging out with people they can be open around, or whatever. But I've heard it enough that it's given me pause on a few occasions.

I can't deny it. That's not to say we don't care about anyone but ourselves. Usually quite the contrary, I think, though there are clearly exceptions. It's not to say we're self-centered in the sense that we only think of ourselves in making decisions, harming others with behaviors in selfish abandon. There are as many of those as in any other crowd, but I'm not sure there are any more so, and where there are, they shouldn't get a free pass. And let's be honest, we're still (mostly) guys, and guys often aren't as great at showing interest as girls in general. And yes, sometimes the collective voices of blogs or discussion groups take on an overpoweringly "woe is me" tone, which is probably not productive and can be annoying. But what I think they mean is that many individuals tend to be very caught up, in our heads and in conversation in groups, in figuring ourselves out, resolving our internal conflicts, deciding what path to follow, and doing what it takes to follow the path we've chosen which, either way, is often a non-negligible effort to shift certain paradigms and deal with severe social and internal consequences and stress, and it comes across as disinterest in anything outside of our immediate sphere of mohodom.

Unfortunately, I think it's that conflict or ongoing effort to maintain a perspective and help others to do so (an indicator that it really is no casual effort and requires more than praying and fasting away the gay or more than fooling around with your first crush and calling it a relationship), combined with 'fighting' and 'striving' to be a certain kind of man or woman, combined with possible years of feeling inadequate, incomplete, assaulted (by one side or another) broken, or sinful which often overshadows what would otherwise be a very sensitive, perceptive, affirming personality. In a way, it seems tragic to me. But in a way, it can be a growing process which may eventually lead to a more whole, confident, re-integrated person in the long run...hopefully...and hopefully without losing the unique parts of one's personality which have set him or her apart from others.

So to those who seem bent on harping on mohos for self-absorption, I say fine: you may be right. But you don't get to do that and harp on them to comply with what you think they should be doing with their lives. You don't get to add to the chorus of voices telling them how to live and then harp on them for being caught up or nearly obsessive in trying to take your commandments seriously and finding it far more difficult than maybe you've ever known it to be. If you're doing both, go find a carbon copy of yourself to abuse. You're a tyrannical ass, and it shows in your eyes. You probably know your hypocrisy and dishonesty, somewhere deep inside of you, which is what makes you so cold.

To the rest of you, please forgive your moho if he or she seems a bit self-absorbed at times. Help them come outside of their 'struggle' or efforts sometimes, constructively reminding them that you want and need their interest and attention sometimes, too, appealing to what may be their actual natural tendency to care about others rather than scolding them for being something bad and uncaring. But allow them some time to ruminate and to process as well. This is tough stuff for many, whether or not you think it 'should be' and they should just buck up or just follow the prophet or just embrace their gayness. Unfortunately, they're often in a conflict between their most prominent or even cherished beliefs and one of the most powerful human emotional drives--that of (emotionally and physically) intimate companionship--and it's causing them a great deal of dissonance and necessary personal adjustment, even after heading down one path or another. Many of them eventually figure out a satisfactory balance which allows them to carry on. Some take a long time, others less so.

There are some who completely eschew all gay influences in their lives and try to just live on their own, forging a life of heteronormativity the best they know how, and they may succeed, at least for a time. Others may have left the church when they're young and have developed relatively normally within social circles which unquestioningly accept their homosexuality and don't constantly remind them that they've chosen to forfeit Celestial Glory. Either of these are probably less self-absorbed in the way most mohos are, but they've distanced themselves from conflicting voices, an option which may not be available, desirable, or right to many mohos, especially those who come to terms with things later in life.

Some are actively involved with the church and have a supportive community of friends who share their challenge and want to similarly live the standards of the church. Some will marry, others won't. Either way, their friends will have ups and downs and will need each other for support and simply can't go back to the notion that you're better off shoving it all under the rug and isolating yourself from those who personally understand what you're going through...they've seen that as a path which worked for a while but which stifled their true potential and emotional connection with their spouses or others in their life. As such, even among those who are firm and unyielding in their path, there will be exposure to doubts from friends questioning whether it's all worth it, whether the Lord would understand if they just found a same-sex partner for this life and left the rest to be resolved in the next, repenting for slipping up again, or simply needing an emotional recharge from trusted male friends who know what they've been through.

I do have moho friends I would consider not self-absorbed at all, at least no more than anyone else in or out of the church. It's not everyone.

But it may be me. At least sometimes. And when I realize it, I try to focus more outwardly, let go of the conflict or needing to decide where I'm headed and what, exactly, it entails, and see where I can respond to the needs of or learn about the interests of others, getting outside of myself. There's a balance. And maybe at times I will have to quiet the voices on one side or another...or both, in order to sort out my own way.

My friends have often followed up their observations of self-absorption with something like, "I just wish they showed more personal interest in things other than their own struggle and social circles, but despite my own challenges in life, I can't imagine what mohos go through, trying to reconcile all of that, so it's hard to fault them too much." I've appreciated that. And it makes me want to make sure I'm that much less self-absorbed, or more outward-reaching, so I don't take that kind of friendship for granted.


BLB said...

This is one of my all-time fave posts! This is coming from Mr. Avoid-Flattery-At-All-Costs. It totally sums up what I've been observing through various people's experiences. There's nothing inherently wrong with self-absorption, and will defend everybody's right to engage in it. In the Enneagram theory, it seems that mohos have a disproportionate #, as compared to the general population, of Type 4's of either wing, a type that facilitates self-absorption and the struggle to find one's own niche in life. I, myself, am not a Type 4, but I totes get folks who are and will give allowances for their behavior anytime.

On the topic of your straight friends' commentary, I think, despite my constant and vocal complaints to the contrary, I can make tons of straight friends as long as I hit 3-4 common interests with them and build from there. The problem, of course, is finding those common interests, but the happy thing is that I know what to look for.

JonJon said...

You kind of touched on this, but I also think that gays collectively can be absorbed in their collective self. Some mostly associate socially only with other gays and I think that contributes to the perception of self absorption.

Original Mohomie said...

Ha, glad you liked it, BLB.

JonJon, agreed.

MoHoHawaii said...

I think this essay is on target.

The phenomenon is not hard to understand. The level of personal repression required to be an active same-sex attracted LDS person requires an enormous amount of effort to sustain. There isn't much energy left over.

boskers said...

Interesting post.