30 September 2010

Tempted to Believe

Note: I wasn't going to blog about this. It was a very personal experience, and I didn't want to have to explain myself to anyone. But it was an experience I think is very much worth sharing as part of this whole process, so here it is.

When [he] suddenly called off our relationship and said goodbye after attending an Evergreen Conference, I was devastated (if my devastation surprises you, please take a few hours to catch up on this week's reading, and return to this post). I had knowingly assumed the risk, since he wasn't fully settled into the idea of dating men when we met, but we had overcome some significant hurdles. I had been tempted to bail a couple of times to avoid getting too invested, or because it seemed so unlikely to work out long-term, or because I was afraid he was more invested than I was, but I chose to stay and see things through, and I had been glad I did because I felt great about where we were going and what we were like together, and I'd started to fall. Things were looking better and better between us. He had initially surprised me--after we had decided to keep our friendship 'platonic' and I had decided to move back to the northwest--by calling me to ask me out "on a date" (I cried a little out of happiness, not gonna lie), and again with his apparently increasing conviction that he was where he was supposed to be, with me. So I half expected we would continue to clear the hurdles, and when this particular hurdle of the Evergreen Conference left me flat on my face as he left the race altogether, I felt utterly bereft and broken.

The week leading up to it had also tried my resilience in another way. I had had conversations earlier in the week with two separate married couples, friends from college, in which I explained to them that I no longer attend church and don't believe in it like I used to, or at all, and proceeded to patiently withstand the rebuttals and questions they couldn't help but level with urgent righteousness to try to slap some sense into me, which I explained I understand and used to do, myself. But with each couple, there was a time when I thought, "This may be our last conversation." But in each case, we left on a friendly note, agreeing to disagree but reaffirming that we still liked each other and respected the good characteristics each had. But since one conversation was Tuesday night, and the other was Wednesday morning, by the time I met up with [him] midday Wednesday, I was emotionally drained and so glad to be with him, where I felt unreserved love and acceptance and open attempts to understand.

I think this compounded my frustration when he turned fully from me to pursue a "new direction" in life, apparently towards the very belief system strictures I've been moving away from and from which he had seemed to be as well. The one I'd felt so safe with had now turned coldly and abruptly away, and I was left behind, confirmed as the sinner who wouldn't "change". More than that, I was weighed down by a sense of weariness that left me wondering if I had foolishly believed in a fantasy that things could all work out for me. Had I imagined myself somewhat as the hero in Wicked, abandoning her quest to change the world in favor of quietly pursuing happiness with her love (OK, so some Wicked songs on my mp3 player yesterday had me thinking about that)? I guess I had started to entertain that notion a bit too much. I had faith in us, so much so that by the end, I had not held on to my heart quite enough to save me from the pain. For various reasons, the breakup left me in pieces.

He lives in different town than I did, and I was passing through on my way northward to see our mutual friend in a play. Being in the town where I had just had my last beautiful day with him less than a week prior was hard, and the new distance between us felt all the harsher as I slept just blocks from his apartment with no certainty that we'd ever see each other speak again. Only a strong conviction, I figured, or at least a strong emotion that felt like conviction, could have compelled such a sudden turnaround for him, and I couldn't fault him for wanting that kind of conviction that feels so good at the time. I can't stand the thought of losing him to some one-sided rhetoric and an emotionally charged weekend hurrah. I can only hope that he had a "spiritual" manifestation at least as strong as any he had regarding us or his previous assurances. He must have. And if he did, then for me to try to talk with him about it in any way other than affirming it makes me a literal enemy of God from his perspective, and who can compete with that? I had to just let go, to let him follow his new direction. I was trapped between the "if you love them, let them go" pain of desolation and the bait of confirming that getting in the way of his exaltation proves I couldn't have truly loved him.

And letting him go, I knew he'd be gaining what I felt I'd been losing this past couple of years, in addition to now losing him. I had known, in the past, what it felt like to be a part of a family of supporters who feel like they know powerful truths nobody else dares to speak. I remembered that feeling, that motivating sense that I was giving up my will to a greater purpose and eternal goal, supported and praised for my conviction and diligence by those who likewise believed joy was found in this particular brand of self-denial and dedication to a more excellent way than mere mortal exaltation-forfeiting contentedness. And his sudden goodbye made me long, in a way, for the kind of camaraderie I knew he'd likely found, for the cheerleaders and sense of grand, overarching purpose he must feel, for the sense of meaning brought about by sacrificing what we had, or thought we had. Because what I was left with was mostly sympathy (even if sincere and heartfelt) from friends who quietly believed he made the doctrinally right choice, the notion that I was a sort of sacrifice left on an altar I don't believe in, and a feeling that we needlessly and senselessly lost a beautiful thing.

In my ache to see some kind of hope in this, or my longing not to let go (of him and of my friends who maintain that the only path to eternal joy is avoidance of all romantic or sexual relationships with members of the same sex), I faced a feeling I hadn't experienced in a long, long time: a desire to believe, to believe that this was for good, that there was some meaning to it, and that I could confidently hope for eternal joy in exchange for the happiness I had lost. That would've made it sufferable or worth the loss. I knew in my mind that this was likely the desperate grasp of the guy who has lost everything, a kind of desire for belief I've never respected much or given much credence to. But I also knew I was feeling some intense emotions and losses, feeling broken to the core, like I'd lost all hope of the happiness I wanted to find and thought I might have found had we continued. I was ready to give up on that road if this is going to be the pattern of it, loss after loss, and was now open to anything. For the first time, I suspect I clearly tasted what the flip-flopping mohos who've baffled me by running in and out of the church have been experiencing all along.

I thought of the fellowship he would enjoy with people I used to feel at home with, but with whom I'd felt increasingly distant due to the new gaps between our beliefs. I imagined "being home" again with them and in the church I used to love, having a community again. I imagined what it would be like to be in his shoes now, confidently starting a journey of self denial and self discovery with the promise of eternal joy and the possibility of the kind of marriage I'd always imagined: procreative, eternal, free of social disapproval, familial strain, or legal limitations. I admittedly fantasized about being able to join him in his journey, to believe again the things which I believed before, to rejoice in each other's prodigal return, in a friendship which could continue in its more eternal form, unfettered by romantic or sexual complication. I could still be with him in that way, in some way, rather than this painfully final-feeling goodbye. I yearned for the confidence that even a lifetime of choosing to be single was exactly what God, if he exists and cares about this in the way LDS doctrine and tradition claim he does, required of me if I never found a woman with whom I could "make it work".

In short, and despite having other good friendships, I still missed the full fellowship I'd had with a few good guys, and I longed to assuage my pain with a belief in a grand, overarching purpose for my loss. Surely this suffering might have meaning. I was a mess of emotions and longing, and I was open to believing there was possibly "more" to my longing than what I'd been able to identify. I felt a powerful drive to go back to the path I'd left, but I knew it would take more than feelings of social ease and belonging, the desire to be near [him], and comforting stories to tell myself about why this loss was worth it. I knew it required being able to set aside the knowledge, questions, and years of church attendance, prayer, and scripture reading with no success in salvaging my "testimony". It required believing that familiar path was a true path, not just an attractive one at the moment.

Tuesday morning (the 21st), in a very humble, almost desperate state of mind, I decided there was no harm in being open to being called back, or to rekindle faith in LDS doctrine or at the very least in a real, personal God. I've always been sure I could comply again with whatever was required if I felt it was true. I drove to the Logan temple to sit on the grounds and reflect. As I walked up the grassy hill, my stomach flipped as I thought, "What if this is it? What if this is where I recommit to the path I used to be on? Am I ready for that?" Looking up at the temple, thinking of what it represents, it felt like a memory, like something you find in storage which you know used to be deeply meaningful to you but which you now feel ready to give away because it's just an object attached to an increasingly distant memory.

Nevertheless, I sat on a stone bench, and I buried my face in my hands as I prayed silently through sobs and sniffles, saying, "I haven't done this in a very long time, and I maybe can't expect to have everything be magically restored, and if you exist you know I doubt your very existence and tend to think of 'you' as 'truth' and 'prayer' as 'meditative, reflective, open thought', but if you are there in the very real sense I used to believe in, please help me. Please help me begin to understand what I'm supposed to do with all of this. Please help me remember what I need to if this is true and whether you would ask of me what he seems to believe you're asking of him. I'll give it. I think you know I will. This has hurt so acutely, but if it's your will, I want to accept that."

I blanked out my thoughts. I pushed out my friends and family. I pushed out church culture. I pushed out my possible 'explanations' for past spiritual experiences. I pushed out thoughts of [him]. I exerted all the effort I could to wipe the slate clean, to 'receive' truth, to extend my energy upward and outward in search of spiritual reception as I used to do so often. I felt a familiar slight chill upon that exertion, a very familiar feeling. But as of yet, no revelations or confirmations to speak of. I felt trepidation and fear as I dared to ask, "If there's something I haven't seen or understood, or which I haven't been prepared to receive, which will be hard for me, please help me prepare or understand. I know I'm a tough sell in some ways, but I have been contrite before, and I feel so now, that old familiar readiness to do whatever it takes, to learn whatever I'm supposed to, so please...I'm open...help me be more open..."

My hands were tired and full of tears. I didn't want to show my puffy, pathetic face to the few passers by entering and leaving the temple, and I wanted to just "listen" for a while. I don't know how long I was there, but I decided to take a break and walk around the grounds once, which I did. And I returned to the bench to listen a while longer. In the end, I said, "OK, not now then. I'm not sure I'm ready to give up, though. I may be back soon. In the meantime, if there's anything you want to reveal, feel free, OK?" I decided I would re-assess a few things, try to be open to the possibilities, take a few steps of my own here and there, and explore my options for re-organizing my life according to some realizations and resignations. It was time to move on in many ways, with or without a divine intervention or manifestation.

Aside from the slight chills which didn't exactly bring fruits of the Spirit, I hadn't noticed any sensations or inspiration, which reminded me of a few things about prayer in the past and realizations I'd had about it. But I still figured I'd not be the proud guy who commanded God to answer me and threw my hands up in atheistic defiance when I didn't experience angelic ministry. And I certainly understand that if God's real, then it's probably not about me giving him another chance, but the other way around. So even though I wasn't about to ignore everything I've thought and felt over the past several years in favor of "wanting" to believe in the midst of an emotional crisis, maybe I'd just leave the jury out a while longer. Certainty, after all, is overrated...isn't it?

29 September 2010


I'm weary of fighting a natural inclination to tread a path that will lead to less resistance and conflict in my social circles and among those who are the most significant people in my life.

I'm weary of hoping to find others who want the kind of relationship I want, carry the values I do, and have considered both sides quite fairly rather than dismissing gay relationships as merely childish playthings or mixed-orientation marriage and single living as sheeplike self-loathing or an impossibility.

I'm weary of wondering if I'll ever live in a society where same-sex relationships aren't an issue, and gender roles are understood to be malleable, fluid over centuries, and destined to adapt to evolving humanity and social needs, or where religious beliefs and speculations aren't used to legislate behaviors not proven to inescapably damage the rights of others.

I'm weary of wondering whether gay culture will mature, seducing away fewer gay men from understanding the value of committing to a relationship through thick and thin, even after the initial infatuation wears off. And whether there will be more gay men who truly want committed, monogamous relationships to the extent that such desire is clearly reflected in their actions and relationships. Or whether my own views have to change to a more "enlightened" perspective I don't currently want.

I'm weary of wondering whether I'll be able to afford to adopt, or whether I'll even be able to live somewhere where it's even legal for two men to adopt, or whether I'll have a surrogate to have little mes running around, or whether and in what ways I'd need to compensate for not giving them a mommy, or whether what I really want is to have children "with" someone in the truest sense, where we both procreate and raise little ones, or whether that's a selfish desire I need to let go of.

I'm weary of trying to figure out how we'll eventually tell my LDS nieces that their once-faithful uncle is now a godless homo, and his "friend" he's been bringing to family functions for years isn't just a "roommate", and knowing that this will bring them sadness and stress. Even though we all have stress and understanding to adapt to throughout life, and following convictions often catalyzes those, I'm growing weary of being that source of stress to so many in my life and would feel so much relief to just be the "example" I used to be to the majority of people who've been most prominent in my life.

I'm weary of not being convinced that I couldn't have a happy mixed-sex marriage and wondering if I would be happier doing that and having the essentials of a quality relationship without all this other baggage, but still wondering whether that would be with an LDS woman, an atheist woman, a religiously indifferent woman, or...it just doesn't solve everything.

I'm weary of wondering whether the kind of guy I'm most attracted to is also the kind of guy most likely to need his religious community in his life and the approbation of his conservatively religious family, and whether I'm willing to risk losing someone to that draw again.

I'm weary of having increasingly many questions with seemingly fewer and fewer answers. I'm weary of trying to nail down any concrete answers before acting. I'm weary of feeling the pressure to act more sure that I am about some things and the frustration of not being able to convey how sure I am of other things which are less concrete. I'm weary of wishing I just "knew" certain things one way or another but without arbitrarily ascribing cosmic meaning to "feelings" or convincing myself opponents are simply wrong.

I wasn't so weary of these things while "we" were together (barring the last one). I knew they were questions which would need to be answered, but I was OK with it, confident we'd find our way if what we had turned out to be right. But [he] grew tired of "questioning" and sought after conviction of a different kind, and I am finding myself consequently afraid that's just how it's going to be. On one hand, I'm worried about finding someone who is too hedonistic and can't resist the allure of predominant gay culture's idea of liberated sexuality. But more so, I'm afraid no relationship with the kind of guy I am attracted to and want to be with (which I may try to explain in another post), will be able to permanently stand up against the pressures of religious influence persistently dangling "sinner" in front of us, family disapproval or stresses, expectations of established gender norms, traditional perceptions of marriage and commitment, and the personal endurance and diligence required to accept possibilities about truth without needing to eventually subscribe to a set or system of prescribed beliefs and doctrines, complete with the welcoming community and praises of men and women who think similarly.

Maybe my own weariness is feeding this fear because if I am worn out, why not the next guy? Or maybe my fear is creating the weariness. I feel detached from any specific community as I forge my own path, and though that's been a challenge I felt I was overcoming, and I'd love to find someone to explore that with me, I'm realizing that the likelihood of finding someone else who's comfortable forging with me in defiance of and at the expense of the comfort of the community they've always known, and the social "belonging" they've always wanted, whether in a religious community, gay community, or both, is...probably dismal.

I felt like having [him] to share the journey was enough for me, even if we never saw fully eye to eye, but still I can't help but wonder whether this is a stark realization that even though I think seeking truth is priority number one, when confronted with the juxtaposition of being with someone, or part of a community, and being alone, I powerfully yearn to not be alone. And maybe this comes down to me not being as ready for commitment to a relationship as I would like to be; maybe I haven't yet convinced myself it's what I want objectively or in an abstract sense, even though I clearly wanted it with [him]. Maybe I have yet to meet the social circles where I'll meet people I more fully relate to, but maybe I'm simultaneously afraid that they will not fit into the rest of my life, and I won't be ready to leave behind my social circles and culture in favor of them.

What I don't know is whether I'm second-guessing because I'm truly not ready and have lingering doubts, or whether it's because I'm afraid of this happening again and am defensively reacting.

...Speaking of weary, I have plenty more posts in the works related to all of this, so I intend to fully wear all of you out as well. You don't have to read...in fact, I think most of you have already been skimming. *shrug*


I had faith in "us", the kind of faith you act on and hope for despite the odds, which enlarges your soul and gives a sense of purpose and dedication, confident in what could be if both parties have the faith necessary to see it through and trust the outcome. But as with any other thing in life, if one party lacks faith, or finds overshadowing faith in something else which is at odds, the miracle is not achieved. Faith, I've learned over time, is not always rewarded in the way we hoped, or in the timeline we hoped. But your perspective--what you do with what happens, whether or not it's what you hoped--makes all the difference in life.

"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." LDS scripture adds "...which are true." A few years ago, had someone come to me with these thoughts, I would have told him, "Trust not in the arm of flesh," assuming that to mean not to have "faith" in interpersonal relationships but in God first, who would orchestrate and make all else well, who is never the one to lack faith or put faith in something else, always upholding his end, a nice insurance. But the kind of faith that you put into a deity to resolve your problems is, I now suspect, a leap of similar kind to taking a leap to invest in a relationship, or a concept, or a decision, without knowing the outcome but believing it will turn out as it should, and you will learn from it.

Having faith in a deity sort of generalizes your energy and investment and provides an umbrella comfort that persists regardless of how things here and now end up. It's a nice belief to have had. It made things OK in the long run even when they were crappy for the time being. Yet I feel some hopefulness that things will be alright, that they'll work out in the long run. It's not yet a living, active faith to propel me into optimistic action, like my faith in God and LDS doctrine used to be, or my faith in "us" was. But it's enough to keep going for now, weary and broken as I feel. And while I may be more careful about what risks I take in the future, I love the faith I felt in "us" and hope to be able to muster such faith again in a future relationship because there's something beautiful about acting on faith in what is yet unseen.

28 September 2010

Post-mission blues

When my time as a missionary was done, and I was to take the lessons I'd learned and move on with life at home, I felt a strange mix of emotions. I had left my mission to "come home," but it felt just as much like "leaving" home, so returning home and seeing my family was tinged with homelessness. I also saw my vague, future life with a distantly hopeful heart while regarding my tasks at hand with a sort of comparative emptiness. I couldn't shake the feeling that it seemed a bit hollow to be focusing on "me" and the comparatively menial chores of school, finances, and career. I knew they were necessary, but they seemed so relatively insignificant to what really mattered, what I'd been focusing my attention on.

I knew that others had served missions and had been through this, but only missionaries I served with really knew what my mission was like, and nobody in the world could see even those shared experiences through my eyes. Only I knew exactly how I interpreted them, or what they meant to me. I wanted to share everything in my head with my friends and family after the mission, the many things I'd learned and experienced and felt, but no amount of journal-writing could keep up with my thoughts, and no amount of explanation could put into anyone else's mind or heart anything approaching the complexity I'd experienced or perceived. No, that experience was mine and mine alone, and though I wished I could share it or express it, I settled on sharing the snippets I could which seemed most appropriate to my audience.

I was happy to be back among the few old friends who remained in my home town, but I experienced an intellectual loneliness and the vaguely melancholic sense that I had changed in ways I could never fully explain, and I could never fully "return" to how I was or how I had previously viewed life. I really struggled with the reality that nobody really understands me fully, and vice versa, and probably nobody ever will, and I have to accept understanding "enough". When people (such as friends of other faiths) would try to relate to my mission experience using their summer exchange programs to foreign countries, I would nod patiently while thinking to myself, "That's on a completely different level and in a different context, without the deeply spiritual meaning, so it's not nearly what I'm talking about, but OK, we'll just say you relate somewhat."

Tonight, I was thinking about my life now, and I wondered why I felt so intellectually alone, and funky about starting fresh in building a new life, struggling to see any of it as meaningful or important compared to where I've been, or what I had. It struck me in clarity: this was a familiar feeling. And it gave me hope that the pieces will come together, enough, in time, and home will redefine itself, and I will re-learn that sometimes I just have to accept, even though it's hard when those close to you can't relate or think you're on a questionable path, that nobody will fully understand what's inside of me and what I see. Maybe it will even all work out in the long run, in a progressive cycle with good times along the way. One can hope...

Missing him differently

There's something significant which didn't hit me until last night. Every other time I've ended a relationship/fling with someone, I've felt a stark lack of physical companionship. I've intensely missed their arms around me, or holding them tightly into me. I've felt alone in bed, even if we didn't share a bed in reality. I've always missed their companionship and conversation, too, but most of the loss manifested in feelings of physical loneliness. [He] and I were definitely physically affectionate, and even passionate at times (though restrained, a fact which I appreciate and will repeat in future relationships), but as I lay in bed last night, about to fall asleep, I realized I wasn't longing for his arms around me or vice versa and hadn't, really, since the break-up. I have intensely, achingly missed him, not in the "I wish I had someone" way but in a very whole, very personal way, but I haven't given much thought to the physical distance. Sure I miss holding each other and feeling him breathe with me, or being physically expressive in typical "couple" ways. But more so, I miss our intimate or casual conversations about anything and everything, staring up at the stars together, goofing off with him, the feel of his cheek in my hand and lips kissing my palm, the expressive looks in his eyes that said what words can only approximate, the things he said with a tender or wicked smile, the things I felt but was afraid or otherwise hesitant to express, feeling so grateful to have him... That's what I miss most, and I'm grateful for that fact.

27 September 2010

Evergreen is not an asylum of crazies

In relation to my recent post about my first time attending the Evergreen Conference, I want to make one thing clear: the therapists and presenters are not a bunch of total kooks, they are not liars, and they are not self-loathing shells of human beings. They believe what they preach, I think, and are sometimes surprisingly and disarmingly rational about their approach. It's taken me a long time to come to my current opinions and perspectives about reparative therapy theories and efforts to live the heterosexual lifestyle. Along the way, I've listened to those whom gay activists dismiss outright as dangerous quacks, and I found that the supporters of what I call "the Evergreen way" had more of a basis for their arguments than they're typically given credit for, even if they overstate certain things, mask or gloss over certain realities, make certain foundational assumptions which I consider to be leaps or with which I simply disagree, and too often present theories (though not completely unfounded) as facts or absolutes. They're often, in fact, happy-seeming and energetic, charming people, particularly the ones placed up front as the faces of the issue at the Evergreen Conference who aren't as much there to convey psychological research as their own personal experience. Whatever glossing happens, such sins are not unique to Evergreeners. Leaders and speakers for all kinds of organizations, whether political, fraternal, religious, etc, tend to overstate support for their positions and downplay and discredit those who don't agree, and they often do so with emotionally moving passion and zeal which appeals powerfully to many.

So before you act all shocked that someone could be seduced or convinced by Evergreen Conference presenters' philosophies, or you think your friend is a total dupe, read Evergreen's "Myths" page to find documented responses to many dismissive, pop-culture claims made by opponents of re-orientation therapy or behavioral conformity to heterosexual lifestyles, information you're not likely to see in many places partially because it's not widely accepted by experts in the field of psychology, and partially because it's just not "politically correct":


There are counterarguments or clarifications for some of what is said here, sure. I think North Star's leadership would take dispute with their claim that "Evergreen International is the only known organization that supports Church teachings and practices 'without reservation or exception,'" even if it's not so specifically worded. Also, most people who've been around a while know that the words "change" and "homosexuality" have somewhat specialized uses in these circles which allow them to honestly make the claims they do. And I could swear that, four years ago or so, Evergreen used to deny that certain aversion therapies were ever even used more than incidentally and attempted to personally discredit people who claimed they'd gone through such programs (but I may just be projecting what certain individuals heavily involved with Evergreen said, rather than the organization itself). But most of what they point out on this page cannot be summarily dismissed, and I never have done so.

I do believe everyone should be free to make the best of their life given their beliefs, values, orientation, etc. I agree that to say "change" is not possible is disingenuous, as there are people who claim to have changed, and I may question what they mean by "change" (the only people I've met who have claimed to actually become heterosexual are those who make their living from insisting so), but who am I to tell them they're lying if they claim a full or partial change in sexual orientation? I fully believe that even a relapse (like John Paulk getting caught in a gay bar) does not completely negate a person's efforts or ideas. If that were true, there'd be a lot of gay guys whose relapses into their conservative religious cultures and heteronormative lifestyles they find so familiar and comfortable could never claim to be truly "gay" or "ex-ex-gay".

I believe that when one's beliefs leave no room for same-sex relationships of any romantic or sexual kind, they should have opportunity to work within their boundaries towards fulfillment and happiness in ways alternative to "the norm", as long as those efforts do not negatively affect other people. I think that, though it may not be ideal to have to "work" at loving someone of the opposite sex in a way most people take for granted, on top of all of the usual issues of a relationship, a lot of life isn't ideal or fair, and this is one more (probably big) way that's true, and if two people have assessed the risks and weighed the pros and cons and decide to take them on, or if someone decides to find fulfillment as a single man or woman, we should wish them the best and support them in doing it as healthily as possible. I may not "be interested" in doing what it seems to take to get there--permanent involvement in support groups, regular experiential weekends, holding activities with other (usually "SSA") men, persistent mentorship, etc.--but if it's a choice between "whatever it takes" and "being alone", I definitely see (now more than ever, believe me) why so many make the effort, and many even eventually succeed in building the life they wanted according to the options they allowed for themselves (or believe God allows for them), if they tough it out.

When I first went to an Evergreen Conference in 2006, even though I didn't buy into everything I heard or saw, I could see that it was possible to "deal with it" in ways I could be satisfied with for myself, assuming my beliefs dictated it, and it was refreshing to hear others affirm and support the notion that I could hold my beliefs and determine my own destiny. Since I tended to believe my beliefs did prohibit a same-sex romantic relationship, I was among supporters, and I felt energized and uplifted.

I knew that, for me, it came down to what I believed. Did I really believe my only viable options were the church's doctrinally proclaimed options: to live as a single man or with a female partner? Did I really, truly believe I was not to have a male partner? I wanted to be with a man but have it be socially acceptable and consistent with the gospel. But that wasn't an option in my mind, so I lived by the church's policies and believed I would be blessed for doing the right thing, and all else would be compensated beyond all comprehension in eternity. But I also knew that if it weren't for the strictures of my beliefs, I would clearly want to be with a man and believed it was possible to do so happily and healthily. I didn't have a desire to date women except as a show of obedience and sacrifice and to have the family I always wanted, but I knew that if I thought it was possible to have a fulfilling, committed, family-building relationship with a man, that was what I really wanted, if it was consistent with God's will, assuming God existed and gave a rip about which sex my partner was, which I really did assume and believe. Since I had felt naturally inclined, magnified, motivated, brightened, animated, and enriched by a same-sex relationship, more so than I had felt in a mixed-sex relationship, I knew that if I didn't believe the gospel precluded same-sex romance, that is exactly what I wanted, social and reproductive challenges of it aside. But the religious, social, and reproductive factors did, I had to admit, exist--I did believe a same-sex relationship was not an option--and I saw my best option, given that framework, as being the pursuit of a possible future mixed-sex marriage or fulfillment as a single man.

My perspective has shifted and evolved over time as I've had my own experiences and talked with others who have had a wide range of their own. The religious factor has changed. The social factors are still admittedly tiring and daunting. Even though most people closest to me say they just want to see me happy and are willing to suspend their perceptions of the way eternity is to accept that we'll wait and see how it all turns out, I just feel a tinge of sadness, like they'd think, "We're happy for you, but..." even if they'd never say so. But so it is also for an LDS couple from evangelical families getting married in the temple: their families might be happy they've found companionship even while quietly believing they're damning themselves by following a false religion. You deal with that and rely on your own convictions of what is right.

This is the kind of perspective I want to know a future same-sex partner has faced honestly and candidly. I couldn't feel right about being in a relationship with a guy if I felt like I'd steered him away from even looking at that for fear he might choose a different kind of happiness at the expense of my own. My personal philosophy is that if I love someone truly, his happiness matters more to me than my own comfort or security. So it was and is. I may doubt whether what he's choosing can really make him as happy as he could have been with me or some future great guy he might meet, based on our conversations and what I saw in him while we were together, but to deny him the opportunity to choose or to coerce him away from even seeing the option would have felt selfish and wrong. These are the risks one takes in having conviction in principles rather than in doctrines or dogma: losing people to the seduction of "certainty" to which so many seem to claim exclusive rights.

I cannot judge or see what is in anyone's heart. While I may tend to believe he is more likely succumbing to social and familial pressure to conform to an artificially or arbitrarily limited set of options for happiness, I certainly understand that if his personal beliefs have been re-circumscribed to exclude a relationship like ours, or he was only with me as a consolation to a perceived inability to have a more standard life, or he had never even considered the ideas presented to him, or if he was secretly harboring discontent in our relationship and looking for an 'out' anyway, then if he's going to honestly consider the ideas at Evergreen's conference, that means not dismissing them unnecessarily because they're as-of-yet not proven or are socially unpopular in many circles. It's not craziness. It's being open. It's experimenting on their words. It's...still hard for me to accept because of the happiness I had with him and thought he had, and the even greater happiness I was confident we could have found together in time.

And yet, if he had refused to go to Evergreen out of a stubborn or rebellious refusal to even hear what they had to say, I might have lost some respect for him for not even being open. Unlike many gay men my age, I don't believe they are complete nutjobs denying reality because I've seen them in action firsthand. They are working within a framework of beliefs and options. I just don't believe the same fundamentals they believe (and didn't think he did, either, but I was apparently very wrong about that), so even though I can see benefits and happiness in a mixed-sex relationship, and consider that option potentially viable for myself (and increasingly attractive when feeling hopeless about finding a guy with whom I can expect to have the kind of relationship I want), I also have had my best (and most painful) experiences with men so far, and I'm willing to do what's hard for a relationship which is worth it, whether the "hard" stuff is struggling against my attractions and refocusing my thought patterns in order to find a woman, confronting social stigmas and legal limitations, facing fears of rejection, or risking losing someone because I love them too much to keep them locked in my philosophical tower, away from reasonable ideas built on premises I just don't agree with.

However "wrong" this break-up has felt to me (and oh, has it felt wrong), I don't think he's crazy for pursuing what he believes will bring him happiness, and despite my doubts about his motives or rationale, I truly hope he finds the happiness we wants (apparently a better kind than he believed he could find with me) because...what can I say...I love the cuss, and I think it'll be easier for me to move on if I believe at least one of us is truly happier this way.

26 September 2010


It's been a week since our last conversation, a week and a half since our last date, which was, to me, a sort of magical day. Feels so much longer ago. Yes, my inexperience must be showing, and I'm going to post this at the risk of sounding like a juvenile. I thought I was past the hard stuff. I was feeling better yesterday, keeping busy with my original mohomies in the place where I first started meeting moho friends and really coming to terms with things.

Moving back to the northwest was hard. Leaving Utah felt right, not to mention long overdue. Part of me thinks I should have left when I originally intended to, rather than staying to see how things with [him] would play out. We could have parted on a high. He would have been the one having a breakdown, he had said, but I would've comforted him from afar. He would most likely still have gone to the Evergreen Conference and changed his "direction" anyway, but we already would've stopped dating by then, so the parting would have been less abrupt, possibly less painful for me, less personal, and maybe less final. But I took the risk and ended up leaving Utah when my last big reason for staying dissolved.

I don't know why coming back here was so hard. Maybe it's because it should have felt like 'coming home' in a way. It should have been comforting. But it wasn't. I felt bad when I arrived at a gathering of good friends who welcomed me back, and I could show very little enthusiasm because I was struggling with that. I hope they understood. Being back here reminded me of how things have changed, it feels newly foreign, a bit empty. As terribly sappy as it sounds, I couldn't help but wonder if no place can feel like home right now, compared to being with him. The phrase "nothing will feel right for now" rang true. I had a very difficult first day or two here, then yesterday was better, and I felt more 'normal'. I've been trying to keep in mind that I have plans to make and aspects of my life to build, and the sooner I get to that, the sooner I have more to look forward to, to reduce the distraction of looking back excessively.

A hope that I will eventually find what I'm looking for, in whatever form it may come, returned, which is nice. I enjoyed the day with friends, despite feeling a bit worn out from an emotionally exhausting week. I laughed and smiled effortlessly a few times. Today has been different. I dreamed, last night, that I was at a gathering of friends at the home I lived in in Utah Valley, and I discovered that [he] was there, too. I saw him, talking happily and engaging, and I wanted to go talk with him, but he didn't seem to notice my presence. He didn't seem sad or affected by my absence, just contentedly carrying on with life. I longed to go see him, to talk with him, to have that engaging smile directed at me again. I thought, "What if he's forgotten, and we are back to being friends? I could do that, just to have him around again." Foolish. I didn't want to interfere with his newfound social life, and I was afraid his smile would melt into an expression of frustration that I dared to interrupt his new life with our messy past. So I took in one last view of him happily enjoying himself, and I turned and walked away.

I woke up in a funk, and I've had a lot of emotion to let out today, apparently. I've been fighting an almost gut-wrenching urge to contact him, but I'm too afraid of his response being indifferent (I'd rather hold on to the prevailing memories of his warmth), or of him thinking I'm just trying to lure him away from exaltation for my own selfish needs, or of pushing him even further away, or of re-opening wounds I'm trying to let heal, or of it being just plain inappropriate or wrong for me to reach out right now for whatever reason. So I hold back, I avoid any connection with him because I'm supposed to be letting go. I wonder if the absolute silence is making it worse or better for me. It's hard to tell. I miss him more than I thought I would, so much it aches. Or is it "us" I miss? I miss "us" intensely. Would being in touch with him without "us" be just as bad? All I know is today has caught me off guard and been surprisingly rough.

Note: I've decided to be more raw and immediate with my posts as of late, something I rarely do. As a result, I may say things I regret or by which I'll later be embarrassed. So be it. But FYI, I'm re-evaluating my motives for posting this stuff, and it may stop abruptly at some point if I decide the motives are either expired or are not constructive. Don't make assumptions about my silence if that happens.

Damn this weather

The weather today is overcast, grey, cool, gently raining intermittently, fall-like. This is the time of year I love and hate the most. I love the fall colors of Utah's canyons. I love the relaxing pitter patter of small raindrops on the roof and windows. I like wearing sweaters and long-sleeved thermals, scarves, warm socks. I love cuddling up under a blanket by a fire to warm up from the chill while watching the rain outside. I...hate that I'm realizing that I'm recently single just in time for the best time of year to be in lo--...to be with someone...in this case, a specific someone. Today has been harder again.

25 September 2010

Sometimes they forget, and you move on

In high school, a female classmate became interested in the Church through our personal discussions at school and decided to take the "discussions", or lessons, from the sister missionaries. She was one of the missionaries' star 'students', doing her reading, asking all sorts of relevant questions, and despite some early hesitations, she came alive talking about the gospel, getting answers to prayers, lighting up with bright eyes when discussing gospel principles and quoting scriptures. She agreed to be baptized, and we all could see the happiness and peace in her eyes.

Her parents, on the other hand, did not see her as pursuing something which could possibly offer lasting joy. She didn't tell them at first, but we urged her to be honest with her parents and see if they'd offer their blessing rather than waiting until she was 18 and getting baptized against their will because family ties are important, and it'd be better to try to gain their support than to push them away, even though we fully believed she was making the right choice to be baptized. But her parents didn't approve and tried to dissuade her gently when they eventually found out she'd been visiting us. I knew her family was ultimately the most important thing in her life, and I never wanted to pull her away from it. Eventually, before her 18th birthday, they sent her to live with her grandparents for a few weeks. She assured us she would come back and be baptized and was looking forward to it. But her grandfather was an elder in her church and, she figured, planned to help correct her wayward wanderings.

When she returned, the light and warmth about the gospel was gone. She was distant. She had actually forgotten her spiritual experiences and could no longer answer basic questions about gospel principles or scriptures she had previously easily remembered. She no longer wanted to be baptized, and she kindly informed us she would not be pursuing the discussions any longer, that she appreciated our time and kindness with her, but that she was no longer interested. And that was it.

She had been shown how what we taught was a false doctrine, decried by the Bible and dangerous to the soul, and that whatever happiness she was feeling was therefore not of the Spirit but possibly socially motivated or a rebellion, or a desire to believe because she was interested in me. What she'd felt had not been true happiness because it caused stress in her family and set her on a path that could not end in eternal joy. But having gained this new "understanding," what she had felt could be dismissed as having been a mirage. The time she spent with her grandparents, immersed in a different perspective, had wiped much of her memory of the things she'd learned in discussions and what she'd felt.

The sisters were baffled by her sudden turnaround. How could she have forgotten what was seemingly so precious and animating to her? What had her grandparents told her to make her so detached and indifferent towards the gospel she had so enthusiastically embraced before? What should we have done to help prepare her better for her discussions with her grandfather? How could she think those feelings which lit up her countenance could be anything but right and good? But she was resolved to commit to her family's religion again, and any discussion about it was over. We had to learn to accept that, hope for her happiness, and move on to other prospects.

I didn't believe her decision not to be baptized was the right one, but I understood her family and social situation maybe meant there'd be a better time for her, that she didn't have the support she'd need to successfully make such a lifestyle change right now anyway, and it was better for her to keep harmony in her family than lose their support and end up unable to stay on the path anyway. Or maybe she had happiness to find in other ways, and I tried to trust that I don't know all things, and maybe, in some way, we learned from each other and had different paths to follow. I also accepted that she now saw me as promulgating a lovely but false religion, and we had to agree to disagree, and the friendship was going to shift a bit because of it.

Now, I find myself asking similar questions from another perspective. He had said and done and shared so many things which led me to believe he had a certain understanding which allowed for our relationship. I look at pictures of the two of us and see such light and smile and peace in his eyes, though I may be imagining it. I wonder if he's forgotten many of the specific memories I hold dear, which I've written down to remember, or if he looks back on the whole thing as a shameful memory to be blotted out in favor of his new, truer path. I ache to think he may have given up something beautiful because he bought into the claims that it couldn't be real, couldn't work out, or couldn't bring real happiness, but I have to let go and let him pursue his truth the best he knows how, as I pursue mine. If he has become convinced that, happiness or not, it couldn't be eternal, then I can accept that, but I saw him happy, and I saw him relishing and looking forward to life, and nobody can convince me that relationship wasn't every bit as real and productive and meaningful as any other comparable heterosexual relationship. I may question a lot of things. I may be a skeptic. But I have many convictions, and one thing I know is that what I felt for him was no mirage or substitute for love, it was no farce, it was not inferior to an equivalent mixed-sex relationship. It was meaningful, it was pure, it was good, it was personal, it was balanced, it had potential, and despite social stresses inherent to being in a non-standard relationship, it would have been beautiful to pursue it further.

But I'm truly beginning to move on and come to terms with our departure. I hadn't thought of my high school friend's turnaround with the church in many years, but it came to mind this week, which reminds me that such experiences will always be part of life, some more intense or personal than others, and there will always be something ahead to look forward to...I hope.

24 September 2010

Losing My Evergreen Virginity

[Originally started on 17 September]

Evergreen International's annual conference is being held right now. I went to two of these, in 2006 and 2007, and dropped in briefly to the more open parts in 2009 and maybe 2008 (though I don't remember for sure, so maybe not). Since this is the first year I fully intend not to attend any part, I thought it'd be appropriate to write about my "first time".

In 2006, I was relatively newly dealing with everything. I'd been involved in online discussion groups for about a year and a half or two years and had just barely started meeting other mohos, especially with my then-recent move to the moho mecca, Utah Valley. I was intent on either being single or finding a wife, living within the church and by its standards and policies. I was also somewhat skeptical of the theories behind reparative therapy. I'd started to read Resolving Homosexual Problems by "Jason Park" (a pen name, a fact which was always bothersome to me, even if understandable in some ways), but after two chapters, his over-confidence in stating theory as fact, along with the way he discussed the issue in generalities and with a tinge of shame, made his credibility seem questionable enough that I couldn't take his ideas seriously enough to finish the book or trust his method. I realized this would give disciples of the ideas cause to dismiss me as "never having tried it", but I shrugged that off as I always had with people who insisted "don't knock it until you've tried it". I also knew there were other ways of dealing with things and coloring within the church's lines, so I decided to explore the options before reconsidering his notions. I shrugged and said, "Do I look bovvered?" (or would have, had I seen the Catherine Tate skits at that point). I knew that the man behind "Jason Park" was integrally involved with Evergreen, so I approached my first conference with skepticism but still excited to see what else I'd find there and to hear church-affirming perspectives on the issue of same-sex attraction.

I also approached my first Evergreen Conference with trepidation. I had only met fewer than ten other mohos in person by that point. The most I'd ever been around at once was about half a dozen. As I drove to the conference with my friend, I expressed my nervousness regarding the unknown, what it would be like to step out of the elevator in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building onto a floor full of "help me not partake of the forbidden fruit" repressed gay men and women...and some of their friends and family, of course. Would they be awkward? Would I be awkward? Would they be weird? Would I be attracted to half of them? My friend said it's not so bad, that you start talking to people and quickly feel at home when they gather around the elevator waiting for new arrivals, throw up their hands and shout the welcome chant, "Strugglers!" I laugh nervously at his little joke but couldn't help picture a scene like Toy Story's alien toys greeting their visitors, but the aliens instead being clones of Richard Simmons. It was terrifying. I put the image out of my mind, took a deep breath, and cleared any expectations while focusing on why I was going: to hear some ideas to consider, see what the conference was about firsthand, maybe meet a few supportive people.

When I did step out of that elevator, I found the scene to be about as I expected: "strugglers" everywhere, putting on name tags, greeting each other, some smiling and personable, some reservedly apprehensive, some awkwardly flirtatious. I found myself surprisingly at ease, after all. I couldn't help wonder if that old guy was flirting with me, or if that other guy realized he was most definitely flirting with me, but I shrugged it off and stuck with friends I trusted.

[The rest I wrote today:]

I took notes. I discussed thoughts with other attendees and met new friends I've kept in touch with ever since. I met awkward people. I felt bad for the wife who seemed to hate her life but was impressed by the spouses who seemed grateful for their marriages to SSA folk. I loved the sense of pure affection and camaraderie, friends freely tickling each other's backs without a hint of sexuality in it. I loved seeing dads attending with their sons, supportive friends offering moral support. I experienced the comical awkwardness of bending over to use the drinking fountain in front of a line of pent-up SSA men or using the urinal in the crowded bathroom where it seemed most were afraid to be the first to speak but felt awkward about the silence (I opted for the stall). I rolled my eyes at the excessive use of the word "struggler" but felt refreshed when speakers chose not to use the word. I generally felt uplifted and bolstered with confidence in my decision to live in the clean, gospel-centered way so many great and happy men and women were choosing to live.

I enjoyed the workshops, bouncing here and there between the ones which most interested me. I heard statistics about change, methods of coping with day-to-day stress, ways to manage addictive behaviors, reminders to focus on your primary identity as a son or daughter of God, preparations one can make for dating and courtship with a woman, the ins and outs of marriage, OSA spouses' perspectives on how they respond to their SSA spouses' needs and challenges, and other things. My favorite workshops were the panels where people frankly discussed the ways they've coped and dealt and approached their own challenges and daily trials and triumphs.

I didn't completely agree with the "change" mongers or believe it was wrong to think of myself as "gay" as long as I wasn't making it my whole identity and sense of belonging and maintained an eternal perspective. There were a couple of workshops given by people whose views I didn't buy into or whose perspectives I thought were probably not as encompassing as they could be or which reflected the fact that they clearly didn't deal with this firsthand. Always a bit of a skeptic, I knew I needed to research some of the ideas I was hearing to look into them more. But I appreciated that there was a variety of workshops to choose from, to glean what I could, and I felt positively energized by the conference. I didn't have to agree with every idea I heard there: the palpably energetic atmosphere charged me full of hope and motivation that I'd found a community of people who would help me live the way I really wanted to.

These were not a bunch of crazy loons trying to push their agenda on me and telling me to hate myself: they were sharing what they believe works and inviting me to try this or that but more importantly buoying me up to keep working towards (as I saw it) my true eternal potential as a son of God reaching for a divine destiny well worth the sacrifices along this temporal, temporary path of mortality. I also had my own questions, even back then, about the gospel and truth. I recognized that if I didn't believe what I did, much of the conference wouldn't have been relevant to me. I never did believe the rhetoric that gay relationships were inherently doomed to failure, since homosexuality is supposedly a symptom of deep emotional lack and damage. But there were still many positive principles of healthy living taught, and I decided that even if my beliefs ever changed, I was glad to know that these were well-intentioned people making the best of the options they have, and I would love and support them in that rather than deride the organization as I'd seen so many do.

Afterthought: Maybe this is the "reason" I started writing this post last Friday, to remind myself of this to temper the bitterness I've felt creeping in as the result of my extremely painful experience last Saturday night resulting from the conference. I do think some of the views taught in the conference are sometimes damaging or outright wrong, even if well-intentioned, and with my perspective now, I'd feel disingenuous going to the conference, but remembering my own experience and the positivity which came of it at the time helps balance the bitterness I've been feeling and remember that there's good which can come of it, too, for those who believe certain things.

To Daniel

Oh yeah, I wanted to make sure I said this if it ever happened: I got the hell out of Utah.

Bradshaw Lecture

While I have never been bent on deciding whether I was "made" this way or "became" this way, whether in the womb or in childhood or whatever, this is an interesting lecture and probably challenges a lot of more traditional LDS people's beliefs on the issue. Even if it is primarily physiological, what you do with it depends on your beliefs and priorities in life. He may make a few hasty or unexplained extrapolations or conclusions about the findings, but it's an interesting conversation for sure.

You can listen to the full audio of Dr. William Bradshaw's lecture on a biological basis for homosexuality at BYU last night, courtesy of Mormon Stories.

22 September 2010


So much for nothing to say. Angst and pain and loss make for an effective verbal laxative, eh?

I'm not gonna hide it. I'm not going to pretend I've kept my chin up and maintained a positive outlook. I'm a wreck. But I've had OK moments and down moments. I've been among the living, not holed up and refusing to eat or bathe. But I've been breaking down almost randomly here and there. Sunday was hard. Monday was actually relatively good. I think the tears only came briefly maybe half a dozen times that day. Yesterday was possibly the worst day so far for various reasons. Maybe the pattern makes me due for a decent day today. I've only broken into tears once so far this morning, right when I woke up (which I think has been the case every day since Saturday night).

I ache to my core for what was lost so suddenly. I don't believe it needed to be lost but understand, to an extent, why it was. It was a short-lived relationship, but we spent a lot of time together in that short span and made a lot of memories, and it was getting steadily better (I thought), and though I'd had doubts about whether we were right for each other in some ways or whether it could possibly last or whether family matters were worth sticking through, I had decided to weather those doubts because the essentials of a quality relationship were there, and most of the relationship was just beautifully uplifting, productive, and, I think, mutually beneficial. As I stuck through those doubts, they had begun to resolve, and I was feeling really good about where we were going and glad we were moving ahead healthily and slowly but fairly steadily. I had ample reason to believe he felt the same, but I may have been missing something. It seems odd to me that I'm so broken up over something I suspected might be coming, in a relationship which I considered walking away from a time or two myself. I think part of that is that I compounded my emotional investment and risk by sticking with it and discovering that my cold feet were probably fear of things becoming "too good" between us and knowing how much it would hurt if he were to change his mind at some point, which I knew was a possibility, and with the decision to see it through despite the risk, I made myself that much more invested...and vulnerable.

I feel like a newly-found "home" was yanked away. I felt "at home" with him from the beginning, a feeling which was increasingly and consistently present throughout the time we dated. That's a rare quality, I think, and one I value. The loss accentuated my worry that it will be extremely hard to find someone with whom I feel so at "home" who will want me back, especially for more than an experiment or stepping stone, despite whatever they say to keep me around while they're figuring that out.

I hope the many sweet, happy, laugh-inducing, thoughtful, meaningful, and touching memories I have from the relationship won't be lost in my confusion and anger over how he ended it, as I hope with fervor that they aren't looked back on with contempt or shame or dismissal by the one with whom those memories were so lovingly made. I fear that he will think of what we had as nothing but a passing fancy, a mirage, the silly playthings of a relationship which can't possibly fulfill despite what he told me during the time we were together. Had he not decided it wasn't an option for him, I imagine the kind of relationship and life we could have built as being something most people envy. I know that sounds overly romantic or silly to say after only three months, and that may be. But I can only hope that, male or female (again, a discussion for another post), I find that again.

I've fantasized about some future day, when experiences have been gained and theories explored and changes made, when we'll come back together and resurrect what we had with renewed perspective and commitment, but I mourn it all over each time I remind myself I don't at all believe that will happen. And part of me isn't sure I want it to, but that may be defensiveness, not wanting to be burned again.

I'm fighting a sense of betrayal, irrational though it may be, towards the many friends whom I've kept close who are part of the system which lured away the one in whom I was so invested, in whom I'd knowingly taken such a risk. I feel like they unnecessarily robbed me of my greatest hope for a meaningful relationship by framing it disingenuously with their theories, and I don't feel safe with them right now because of it. I know they aren't responsible for his choice to pursue something I didn't know he would find so seductive, but I still feel like they're implicit and know they will be the ones offering him support for having made "the right decision" and entering the "right path" (i.e. the one away from me), adversaries to a relationship which brought me such joy with someone I cared so much about. It's like battle lines have been drawn, and our abstract differences have now become concrete in a very real and personal way. And for now, I don't have the strength to "get over it" or step back from it and be objective. Yet my anger has, in moments, mingled with sympathy for his parents who probably struggled with similar feelings towards me when he chose to be with me in the first place and, in their minds, give up exaltation.

I feel like everything I'm doing in life absolutely pales in comparison to the development of a relationship like we had but more sustainable, so a feeling of not only homelessness but purposelessness has set in. I know I need to be productive and contribute in meaningful ways to society and to individuals in my life. I want to find meaningful work, preferably some that pays well, though pay seems ever less important over time, and I want to find meaningful and engaging opportunities for service and civic engagement, but I also have this overarching sense that there's not enough time in life to do everything I want, and if I had to choose one thing to accomplish, it would be to have a quality relationship with a great person and hopefully raise children or otherwise make a difference, and let the rest come into place around that rather than having to "fit" a relationship in somewhere. Feeling hopeless about being able to do that thing which matters most makes everything else seem piddly. But as I recover emotionally, I'll probably experience renewed drive to engage myself.

As I write this, I'm feeling increased hopefulness and motivation. I expect this feeling will wax and wane. I guess getting some things off my chest and putting thoughts in semi-coherent form helps with that, as does a full night's rest (though interrupted once) for the first time since the break-up, not to mention a couple of no-holds-barred emotional releases yesterday. I think I've hit the bottom and am on my slow way back up. We'll see. It's time for some changes, and I'm feeling ready to do almost anything at this point (disconnect from certain friendships in order to 'move on', pack up two suitcases and head to Europe for who-knows-what, jump into school somewhere, see a career counselor, date women to be done with all of this social pressure and self-doubt baggage, even *gasp* go to JIM just so people can no longer say "he can't credibly criticize something he's never been to" and because I expect it could be an interesting learning experience even if it has nothing to do with 'healing' masculinity or 'resolving homosexuality'(as I suspect), etc). And as they teach in places like Evergreen Conferences, it's best to act quickly while your resolve is fresh and emotions are high because that perpetuates the commitment and creates a sense of value before rationales and doubts (or valid, rational counterpoints) develop.

Maybe it's time to try being more...impulsive.

20 September 2010

Nothing to say...

Disjointed thoughts about having "nothing to say":

I have dozens and dozens of posts started. I have drafts galore waiting to be finished, a couple just waiting for the "Publish" button. Last Friday, I wrote about my first Evergreen Conference experience and what it meant at the time, and how I see it now, but I haven't finished it. I also started a draft about the keynote speaker at this year's conference, and why Evergreen seems to have no better options for speakers than guys who were caught in gay bars after publishing books about how live hetero and whose explanation doesn't wash with eyewitness accounts, but now publishing it would seem like bitterness about losing someone to the conference, even though I started it when things were supposedly fine between us. I have drafts about my agnosticism, the path leading to it, the questions asked about it, the beauty and meaning of life as I see it, weird or funny stories, random thoughts, and my first official "dating" relationship which is now over.

I'm hurt by that, I'm worn out, I don't know how to feel towards my many friends who care about me but also think he made the right decision and will be the ones to support him in leaving me behind as naught but a shadow of the true joy he is purportedly to find in heteronormative, church-policy-centered living.

I'm tired of explaining myself to LDS people, gay people, everyone, helping others understand where I'm coming from so they can get over their angry feelings at me for being fallen or foolish, people who believe I'm probably damned or duped but love me "anyway".

I'm confident that I could not be honest by living any differently right now.

I'm at peace with where I am and where I've been, despite the stress of social adaptation and the uncertainty or ambiguity of where I'll be in five years or whether I'll find the kind of companionship I want.

I'm pretty sure very few people ever act on principle or what they perceive as "truth". I'm pretty sure almost everyone acts on what they believe will make them "happy". I believe that when people's emotions are strongly appealed, they respond to that and adapt their thinking to make themselves believe they're responding to "truth". Maybe even I do that and don't realize it. But I don't respect it. Maybe I have a thing or two to learn.

I don't see bloggers changing much. Seems like everyone just does what they're going to do and thinks what they're going to think anyway. I feel like nothing I say here has ever or will ever have any real, lasting impact on anyone. It seems like I could spend all day getting my entries well-organized, as rationally coherent as can be, and it won't make a bit of a difference. Those who want to believe one thing or another will believe it, and they'll either dismiss my ideas when convenient or support my ideas when convenient, and they'll just do whatever is most comfortable to them in the end regardless of anything I say.

I started recording a series of autobiographical, chronological development of my experience with homosexuality from childhood until now, starting with a 10-minute audio entry about childhood. It was interesting for me, but since I don't see it having any real effect on anyone, I don't want to put it out there.

So the short version is: I have a ton to say because my thoughts are whirling and spinning and zooming forward faster than I can articulate, but I have nothing to say because I can't possibly articulate my thoughts extensively enough to convey them with justice and because I just don't see it accomplishing anything anymore.

Maybe this is temporary, a generalized projection of my experience with someone I was emotionally invested in (I think I do that), and I will post away later. Or maybe I'm done with thoughtful posts and will keep it all light and fluffy. Or maybe I'm done. I don't know. This isn't a threat, and what you say will probably have little, if any, effect on what I do, so I'm not fishing. I'm just...venting.

Backfiring Principles

I lost a relationship with someone dear to me because something about the Evergreen Conference persuaded him to take a divergent path which necessarily excluded me because we were dating steadily. He went because of me. He wasn't going to go to the conference, even though a loved one of his said they were going and wanted him to go with them. I would rather lose him to other philosophies than keep him out of total ignorance of them, so I told him so and suggested that it is better to have been there, to have heard the things said and have a personal response to them, than to refuse to even hear them, especially when discussing the ideas with his loved one. He agreed with that idea and decided to go.

I had reason to believe he was confident in his decision to date me and was quite comfortably and confidently on a different path than Evergreen taught. I knew certain people close to him, including the one going to the conference, were already suspicious of me as an influence in his life, which is why I told him I was going to hang back and not be in touch for the two days of the conference so as to not interfere and let him just soak it in and process it initially without my skeptical influence. I figured he'd have some questions, some ah-ha moments as I had, and have felt some tinge of desire to try the Evergreen way: working towards a temple marriage with a woman in a therapy- and gospel-centered way. I figured we'd talk about it, and he'd talk about it with his loved one, and he'd sort a few things out.

I was wrong. We said goodbye over the phone the night the Conference ended. That was it. No questions. No thoughts to bounce around. No more openness. Commitment of the sort Evergreen teaches often requires cutting out influences which don't fully support it and closing one's ears to contrary arguments because those distract from the goals. If you're going to commit, you must eliminate distractions and commit 100%, and immediately, while the resolve is fresh, like an alcoholic cleansing his house of all triggers and substances before he starts to rationalize keeping that one bottle just in case... Maybe I should have known. Maybe I suspected but didn't want to face it.

Maybe I should stop trying to articulate both sides of every issue and start trying to persuade people more. While I am trying so carefully to allow each person their autonomy by sharing my thoughts, as asked, while acknowledging opposing views and without trying to persuade them (especially when I see they are impressionable), I know the folks at Evergreen or Affirmation or political activist organizations are not going to be so gentle with them but will instead insist, testify, and persuade with all the fervor they have. And they will tell them that in order to make a change, you must surround yourself with the right influences and eliminate the destructive or wishy-washy ones. As such, they are at war, and it's only a matter of who gets to people first and demands the most discipleship, surrounds them with the most community and social support or shelter, gives them the greatest sense of mission and purpose, or exercises the most dominion and social sanctions for non-compliance.

Meanwhile, the quiet, measured, rationally moderate voices encouraging critical exploration of both sides are lost in the din and posturing of would-be mentors and saviors, all of whom believe their cause to be the righteous, correct, joy-offering cause, and all of whom can reasonably claim that to make effective changes, one must make hard decisions and commit to a process of some sort. Sometimes, the would-be mentors maintain a quieter profile, not loudly shouting on street corners but nonetheless using persuasive rhetoric in quiet conversations, based on their conviction of paths they believe are correct. You can hardly fault someone for sharing what's made them happy with those who seem interested, even when those people take away someone dear to you...but that doesn't stop me from feeling a marked tension with such friends.

I'm tired of feeling like I have to either join the more polarized ranks or have people I care about led away by them. I guess I want to be with someone who has seen both sides, who has listened to people from Evergreen, Sunstone, Affirmation, the Gay Christian Network, etc and opted for a moderate, personally-determined course while maintaining judeo-christian values and principles without the need for institutional or social approbation. Good luck, right? Maybe I want someone like that in the way conflicted, misbehaving LDS boys want friends who "know what they want" and are committed to church living: to find in someone else what I secretly am afraid I can't be, myself. Maybe. But I just think it has more to do with wanting something sustainable.

And hey, maybe one such organization seeking souls to save is right, and I'm just the wishy washy appeaser, a mere pawn or distraction in the raging war between good and evil, right and wrong, wallowing in indecision and unmanly, lukewarm non-conviction. Damn it, there I go giving benefit of the doubt. But I'll tell you this much: it was much easier and cozier (and empowering) thinking I was fighting on "the right side" with my clan of like-minded. It has taken a whole lot of conviction, perseverance, strength, and courage to be this non-polarized and...apparently standing alone.

In this case, I knew I had an opportunity to poo-poo Evergreen, to expound on everything I heard and saw at the conferences I went to with which I disagree, stroked his ego to reassure him that he is an adult and doesn't have to bend to anyone's insistence that he go to some conference, to keep him from ideas I believe are, more often than not, half-truths and glossy whitewashes which are excused because the path they promote is the "righteous" one. I saw a possible opportunity to pull him closer to me and defend him from his loved ones. But if I were to be with someone, I'd want to be part of their circles of loved ones, too, and I knew how important his friends and family are to him, and I couldn't bring myself to selfishly seek my own happiness at the expense of his personal growth and truth-seeking, and I deeply cared about him and wanted him to have the confidence of knowing he was freely choosing his path in an informed way. I do wonder why it was so important to me that he specifically listen to Evergreen but not important if he never went to Affirmation or was a member of North Star, etc. Maybe I perceived that he might be susceptible to Evergreen's rhetoric and was afraid of losing him to it at some point and wanted to save myself the pain further down the road by getting to it now. Either way, I chose principles or truth (as I see it) over comfort, even though I knew very well it could end up hurting me a great deal, and I would do it again, and I hope to always do that.

Yet I feel almost dirty when friends who believe he made the right choice to call things off with me tell me that's something they really respect about me. I know in my mind it shouldn't bother me, but it does. And I just wonder how many times I'm going to shoot myself in the foot or have my efforts to "seek truth" backfire, in a way, and cause me pain (hopefully not partially out of some drive to be a martyr, a thought which has crossed my mind but which I don't think is more than a possible, small factor), or if/when I'll cave and start combating persuasion with persuasion more often.

02 September 2010

Dude, Bro

I know we each come from different social circles, and mine are not indicative of the whole world, but I just have to say, guys, that while my straight guy friends call each other "man" on occasion, only my gay friends, particularly the mohos aiming for a heteronormative lifestyle, call each other "dude" and "bro" with any regularity. My straight guy friends have never really employed those "hey, we're non-sexually affectionate" expressions, including those who are unabashedly affectionate. It seems ironically gay-sounding to me. Just sayin'.