31 October 2010

Yeah, I still think of him often...but it's different...

Well, it's been a while since I've broken down into tears over the break-up. I've gotten teary-eyed thinking about things a couple of times in the last couple of weeks, but not even that in the last week or more. I'm no longer always thinking of it, of him, wondering what we could have been, wondering what he thinks of me or how he sees our short relationship, whether we'll ever talk again, whether we'll be friends in some way or come together again in a fantasy love story in the future.

But it's not all settled yet. The last week or two, I've still felt an occasionally strong urge to contact him. To reach out just to touch base, to tell him how I feel about him, that I'm finally OK with things even if I wish they could have been different, that I miss him, that if he ever wants or needs someone to talk to, I'm here and have moved on enough that I don't think it would make things harder emotionally to talk, even if only to touch base, or even if only to part, for now, on less messy terms.

But then I've thought, "Why? What am I really looking for? Would I really be doing it for him or myself? Am I ready to hear, 'Please don't ever contact me again' if that's how he feels? I don't think I am, so that's probably an indication that I should wait. But I also would like to know where I stand with him rather than guess and wonder, even if it's only an occasional thought. So I guess contacting him might be more for me. But I really do want him to know I care, lest he think I don't. Who am I kidding? I always do that: try to make sure they know I care when I'm the only one who's at all distraught and am just projecting. Or is it that I just want him to know I wouldn't reject him if he tried to contact me? I wonder if he is open to contact but thinks I'm not because I said I needed to get over him and he needed to focus on his 'new direction' in life." Reminding myself to face the probability that he is not going through all of this or that he is the one who called it off and is the one who will decide when or if we'll re-initiate contact. Then I thought, "No, he's probably not even thinking about me anymore. Let's be honest, he probably remembers 'us' as a summer fling." "Shoot," I thought, "the fact that I even am thinking this way means I should probably wait." So I am.

I feel pretty "sobered up" from the whole thing, but I obviously still think of him, care about him, and appreciate his friendship, not just his affection. I more confidently realize I can find someone else at least as good for me, just as good a person, with traits he lacked even if lacking some he had. There will be others if I'm open to them. I'm not ready to start looking, for various reasons. But I'm mostly over the feeling that moving on now would be to disrespect what we had. I've accepted that I valued what we had, and if I thought I could revive it by making changes in my life, saying the right things to him, or sacrificing certain things, I am confident I would, but that doing things I think he would want or which I wish I had been better about doing or expressing while I was with him, in case he quietly drew conclusions I didn't realize he was drawing, simply won't change it. So I move on, look ahead, try to be who I believe I should be, and continue trying to become the kind of guy with whom I think a healthy person who would be good for me would want to form a lifetime companionship and future family. But knowing there's more and probably better ahead doesn't mean I'm glad to leave him behind.

Watching (mock me if you will, and let's be honest: some of you will) Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince last night, he came to mind during the scene where Ron is dazed in the infirmary and, in his delirium, asks for Hermione and not his little psycho-stalker girlfriend. I thought, "Ugh, I wonder if he thinks of me as the stupid girlfriend who thinks she's a part of his life but was just a passing fancy. I wish I were his Hermione. I felt that kind of bond with him, the desire to be there as a friend above all else. Great, I am the stupid girlfriend." Then I chuckled to myself, shrugged, and went back to enjoying the movie. We don't have years of history for me to be that tried-and-true friend, and he has other friends who are going down the path he wants, and they may build the friendships I wish I could have built with him. They're good people. We each have our own friends. So it goes with break-ups. Yet part of me wanted, last night, to contact him to say, "I want you to know that I will always love and care about you and wish we could be friends even without the romance, and I hope maybe we still can, if not now then someday. And if you don't agree, or do, just let me know, and we'll move on accordingly." But...for all the above reasons, doing that doesn't seem like the best idea, so I wait.

Yeah, I know that to some (many?) of you, this will sound like the ramblings of a lovestruck teenager getting over his (her?) first breakup. It's not that, but I can't prove that to you, so you'll believe what you want. I've gone through similar feelings to varying degrees with other friends, male and female, so I know this isn't unique to this kind of relationship. It's just intertwined with what were very intense feelings of bonding, romance, love, affection, whatever. It's not a huge thing, just a nearly automatic thought process that happens from time to time.

When I stop being all conflicted over it, that will be the time to contact him. ...or let it go. ...or something. It's funny: I've been through a few "break-ups" of different kinds, and they all share common threads and different situations, so I learn from each one to apply it to the next, wonder how much of what I'm feeling is "normal", how much is indicative of issues I should learn to resolve, how much is completely neurotic without my knowing it. Hopefully someone out there benefits from my ranting, and maybe some of you have input. Meh. I have Halloween festivities to attend to. Pardon me while I take off my angsty dumpee moho costume and put on my cider-making, game-playing uncle costume.

Side note: to commemorate Halloween, I added my last-year Halloween post to "Highlights from the past". Happy Halloween!

29 October 2010

Gay community to blame for own suicides

At an Evergreen Conference I attended, I learned about the startlingly high incidence of mental illness or disorders among gay youth compared to their heterosexual peers, a fact you would not hear, they said, in the media because it wasn't politically correct to point that out about a minority sexual orientation demographic. This was accompanied by the explicit connection that their homosexuality and their depression, OCD, and other disorders are borne of or exacerbated by similar developmental issues, probably related symptoms of root causes. In addition, a presenter suggested that suicide rates are higher not because of social disapproval--a notion they attempted to debunk by pointing out the consistently higher gay youth suicide statistics of predominantly secular/non-religious nations in Europe where homosexuality is supposedly socially/institutionally/politically embraced--but because these youth unfortunately are fundamentally unhappy or suffer from a combination of mental health issues making them susceptible and lifestyle choices based not on healthy variation of normal attraction and intimacy but on insecurities and warped intimacy due to the emotional developmental retardation which created their homosexuality.

This assessment was followed by a somewhat scathing denunciation of the "gay community's" practice of thrusting impressionable youth into a destructive lifestyle, using them up sexually, hooking them on drugs and alcohol, telling them there's no hope they can change and they shouldn't choose their own course but should toe the gay activist line and stick with gay culture dogma, and then acting surprised and pointing a hypocritical finger outward when the hopeless youth end their lives. It's not that gay youth "bring the misery on themselves" but that they are often ill-equipped victims of an insidiously self-perpetuating pattern of destructive living, of a victimization mentality pushed by gay activists in the media, and of an exploitative gay culture which would use them to achieve its own acceptance in society. The presenters taught that gospel-centered support offers not only true love but real hope which can break through the darkness to show struggling youth their true, eternal potential as glorious sons of a living God who has better in mind for them than anything the "gay lifestyle" has to offer.

Such perspective was accompanied, naturally, by a confident reassurance that organizations like Evergreen exist to offer such hopeless youth a "way out", to release the shackles of being beholden to their attractions and to a society they never really wanted to become a part of but which selfishly clung to its members to their own detriment. Evergreen exists to show them that there are alternatives, and they don't have to let gay culture or anyone else tell them how to live or convince them that they can't fulfill their destiny as excellent fathers, wonderful husbands of wonderful wives, and men of honor and righteousness as they've always wanted to. It was an empowering message of shaking off the chains of resignation to a life they wouldn't choose and reaching upwards for joy greater than any temporary relationship and culture built on developmental disorder can offer.

They sincerely, passionately insisted that those who teach that change is possible and that living church standards is possible with or without change in orientation, are not the cause of the suicides but could save youth from suicide if only they could reach them instead of having the gay community selfishly and defensively surround and blockade them from the help and love of their parents and therapists by demonizing them and telling the youth that their parents and therapists don't understand or even hate "who they are". There were references to rights of free speech being hampered by intimidation and threats leveled by gay activists against people who are presenting options some people don't want to face.

The presenters said there's no excuse for hateful or demeaning speech about gay or SSA individuals or "gay community" as a whole, and there's no excuse for bullying or bigotry. They insisted that anyone who knows SSA people personally would know how big-hearted, sensitive, talented, and wonderful they are and would never accuse them of being dark or evil because of their attractions. They highlighted the importance of understanding the issues beyond the stereotypes and talking about them rationally, using gospel principles and sound research. They explained that to point out such statistical realities as those previously mentioned would be regarded as hate speech by politically motivated activists but is merely looking at the realities and responding to them in an effort to help people who experience "unwanted" homosexual attraction and who want to know there are alternatives for them.

They stopped short of saying, "If anyone is to blame for these suicides, it's the gay community, not groups like us." Nobody ever explicitly said that. My title for this post is admittedly provocative beyond what may have been the intended message of the presenters but is exactly how I think most anti-Evergreeners would simplify it.

The message I heard was:
  • SSA youth experience undue pressure and lack of understanding from well-meaning people who incorrectly think they chose to be how they are.
  • SSA people are so because of the interaction of certain traits and tendencies with environmental, developmental factors which hampered the natural development of heterosexual, masculine or feminine identity. Incidentally, keep in mind that certain other presenters shied away from firm explanation or claims that we know why some experience same-sex attraction but focused on every person's ability to choose how to respond to those attractions and whether to live in harmony with gospel principles and church standards.
  • SSA youth experience higher incidences of mental health issues which worsen their mental state and ability to cope with the stress they face. Their issues around conflicts about homosexuality are often compounded by depression, OCD, etc.
  • The gay community worsens this situation with their messages of persecution and victimization to serve their own political self-affirming agenda.
  • The gay community increases their unhappiness and conflict by pushing an unhealthy lifestyle of substance abuse and promiscuity.
  • Evergreen and similar organizations are misunderstood and exist to invite and empower those who want something better to reach for greater, more eternal goals, not to change those who don't want to change.
And you know what? I believe that perspective should not be defensively dismissed but should be addressed honestly, rationally, and openly.

I have to run, but maybe later, I'll expound on my own personal response and the many questions hearing all of this brought up in my mind. For now, feel free to share any thoughts...or go out and do something 'cause it's Friday night. :-)

28 October 2010

The harder the better

I fully believe most of the things that matter most in life require effort, work, and dedication to earn the rewards they offer, and pursuit of true principles often requires the loneliness of stepping into uncharted territory or paths most people dare not follow. I believe the best relationships weather discomfort, hurt, and disinterest and require sometimes herculean effort to say, do, or trust what you really don't want to in the moment but which is best for the relationship, or for the other person. But I don't believe the "hardness" of a task or a path determines how "right" it is, and I don't think the "rightest" things are always hard.

On top of or related to that, I think some of LDS traditional culture carries the idea that eternal joy, consecration, or dedication to righteousness amounts to giving up everything that brings your soul alive--all temporal joys, passions, or even pleasures--in ways not specifically promoted in church manuals. It's self-denial carried to...well, if not extremes, then excesses, at the very least in certain hobby areas. OK, so at the very least, I've done it. I'll speak for myself. I'm trying to do that more.

I just know I've gotten a bit caught up in that kind of thinking in ways that end up not holding a lot of water. I still believe there is satisfaction in knowing you've worked hard for something and thereby valuing it more rather than having it handed to you without any effort on your part, though I'm still learning to live this. I believe truth doesn't come easily, and understanding is worth the effort, discomfort, and humility. I believe working through hellish experiences can lead you to deal with similar future challenges better in ways you'd never learn if you had run from them. I believe sometimes you have to just put your nose to the grindstone or bite the bullet (yay for random cliche phrases) and do the things nobody really wants to do but which are no less essential. I believe seeking pleasures in and of itself brings little, if any, happiness and security to my life.

Often, staying in a job under a difficult supervisor until you make the right connection with the right higher-up leads you to better than you imagined. Often, sticking out the rough times of a job leads you to being better capable of handling the stresses and happier in fulfilling your duties until a much better opportunity in the company opens up, and you are glad you stayed long enough to grab it.

But sometimes, a job really is just not the right fit for you, or you really are undervalued and that's never going to change unless the decision-makers change, which they won't in your productive lifetime, or a manager really is a tyrant. It would be very, very hard to stay in that job. It might push you to the brink of insanity, test the farthest reaches of your patience, and stretch your perseverance. Heck, you might learn something profound from that. You might discover more patience than you ever thought you could have. You might realize you can maintain a positive attitude even in the face of the most difficult manager in the world.

Does that make it inherently right for you to stay and keep doing what you signed up to do? Or does your response just make it more productive than it would otherwise be? Maybe you needed to learn those things about yourself, which makes the trial meaningful. But what if another job opportunity came along which paid better, utilized your strengths more efficiently, challenged you constructively, and put you in a much more positive, uplifting work environment? Would you reject it because it seems "easier"? Would you set it aside as less rewarding because you wouldn't have as much "struggle" in it? Would the possibility of entering into a career in which you soar and more naturally and fully tap into your potential as a vibrant, productive worker be a mere temptation away from your learning experience?

I'm not going to equate this with anyone's specific situation or direction, including my own. I'm just saying to have a little caution about this notion that "harder is better" in matters temporal or spiritual, or that something being hard proves that it's right, or that something is only right if it immediately tests your limits.

"I never said it would be easy; I only said it would be worth it" is a phrase I've always loved, and I think it's a valuable reminder. I believe that as we learn and grow, we become ready to face tougher, more complex challenges, and if the rest of my life is simple and easy, I figure I'll have been doing something wrong and not growing and loving enough in meaningful ways. I just try to balance that with...I don't know...something like, "I never said it would be pleasureless or white-knuckled; I only said it would challenge and ennoble you."

Back-published posts

More old posts I didn't publish until now for various reasons. Some of them were thoughts I wanted to expound on more before publishing but didn't get back around to. Some were a bit controversial, or I didn't want to get too heavy at the time. With some, I delayed publishing mainly because I'd already been publishing more than most readers cared to keep up with, so I figured I'd publish them during slower times when I have less to write about but then forgot about them. Some I just didn't know if I should vocalize at the time for other reasons. Don't misread me, here: I don't expect y'all to eagerly eat these up. I'm just saying they're available for your eyes if you're interested enough to read them at some point, maybe the next time I go through a dry spell.

More to come (as if most of you give a hoot, but for the few who do)...

Jan 2008

Determining truth

Feb 2008

Sexuality is the root of all evil

Missing out on the fun

Can you stay in the middle ground?

Mar 2008

Free-spirited moments

Apr 2008

Friends don't fully substitute

Mohos everywhere

Getting outside of ourselves

Applying gayness to future possibilities

Sluttiness is sluttiness


Glimpses of the one you felt for

Lost that lovin' feeling

Honor Code Schmonor Code

27 October 2010

Bridle, not extinguish

Sometimes I think many SSA folks give in to the fear that their homosexuality is a caged beast they'll be unable to control if they talk about it, interact with others who share their proclivities, or reveal its existence. Sometimes, they even cloak that fear as a great and faithful sacrifice as they sweep their inclinations deep under the rug, never to be seen or heard from again. Other times, it's a genuine effort to meekly bear their burden or just live the rest of their life without undue focus on that one aspect.

I've thought of sexual and romantic attraction, though, as "passion" rather than "temptation". Those attractions may sometimes be directed towards people with whom they shouldn't be exercised or pursued. That's true for anyone. But ever since I really looked at the scripture that counsels us to bridle our passions, I've loved that it doesn't say, "stamp out and extinguish your passions." Its says to bridle them, which makes me think of them as beautifully wild horses that you can either lock away out of fear or learn to tame and direct. I think this probably applies to other passions in life, too, and I actually know next to nothing about horses, but I'll stay on this homo horse and ride it out for the purposes of this post.

So unless you're thoroughly convinced God has specifically told you to keep your homosexuality a secret, or to stamp out the feelings it brings up, or to white-knuckle it as you try to kill it or ignore it, just consider the possibility that it wasn't meant to be ignored, or neglected, or shot on sight. Consider the possibility that you were meant to tame it. You can keep the wild horse locked up your whole life for fear of what it might do, or you can risk some scrapes and bruises in the adventure of learning to bridle and direct it.

Whether you believe the attractions themselves are the horse, and homosexuality is the horse's inclination to run off down dangerous or disallowed paths, or you believe straight people have one kind of wild horse and homosexual people have another, maybe with fabulous, colored hair and eye glitter, or you believe sexuality is basically the same for everyone, and some people's horses are prone to climb pillars of rock while others' are prone to charge into caves is your business. I haven't bothered to think the metaphor through to full conclusion or make it all profound 'n stuff. I mean, heck, wild horses are most beautiful and inspiring when they're running free within their realm. We only tame and bridle horses to make them useful to us, which limits their existence to our human constructs...gosh, that's kinda sad...but I guess if we have to choose between them dominating us or us dominating them, then that puts it into perspective. But who are "we" if not the conglomeration and interaction of all passions, intelligence,...OK, nevermind all of that for now.

Specifics aside, all I'm saying is maybe we're not meant to chain our horses up in dark stables to be released in shackles long enough to plow a field then locked away again until the next sowing. Maybe we're all supposed to bridle them, learning to live and love with passion. Maybe this life, even if you look at it from an LDS perspective, is neither merely a world full of "temptations" to be "overcome" or subdued nor a free-for-all grab-bag of pleasures but really is best learned from and appreciated as an adventurous experience full of interrelationships we're only beginning to understand. Eh, that's starting to sound all new-agey hippieish. Rein it in.

In other words: whatever the passions, I hope to bridle mine, in the sense of becoming one whole, rather than to be overridden by them or to stamp them out. And there's a vague sense in me that, similar to wild horses with life and adventure in their eyes, the strong drives to develop bonds and intimacy and partnership and, yes, even pleasure, with others are beautiful, not evil, even if they need a little guidance now and then to successfully function within certain constructs. I've found meaning, depth, beauty, and even increased passion in the self-mastery of bridling and directing passions, and there's just something in this idea of passions as wild horses which I suspect I've been slow to fully embrace and will benefit from exploring more.

26 October 2010

Does God want us hidden?


I used to think my struggle with/against same-sex attraction was easier or better dealt with alone, without anyone knowing my struggle or being unnecessarily burdened by it. Besides, I'd done this to myself, I thought. I hadn't read this anywhere, just deduced it on my own as a teenager. Surely, I'd sexualized my admiration of other guys and turned it into this perversion, and it was therefore something I was do fix on my own. Later, even after I'd mostly moved on from that notion, I didn't want to unnecessarily incite anyone else to question their own sexual orientation or magnify their other personal struggles by knowing even a stalwart like me was struggling at times (some had even told me that if I ever 'wavered', the faith of many would be challenged, a statement which I took seriously and had personally been cautious against.

This wasn't because I was 'proud' but because I wanted to lift, not challenge, the faith of others and knew many looked to me for example and strength...after all, my patriarchal blessing told me that would be the case in my life. It wasn't proud to believe what God had told me. I didn't want anyone to have to struggle with the questions I struggled with, to have to wrestle with the conflicts I did, or to complicate my life and theirs with their own concerns about me or pressure to push me in one direction or another. What good did it accomplish for me to make my problems theirs when I was perfectly fine relying solely on God and Christ to lift and instruct me through the scriptures, through prophets' universally applicable counsels, and through quiet reassurances and strengthening power of the Spirit?

Additionally, I needed to know that what I was choosing was because I fully believed it, not because others insisted it. I needed to know that I wasn't using others as a crutch or begging sympathy and pity. I needed to know that I could rely on God to carry me through my trials, and aside from what I'd already read in the Ensign, the church's leaders in general didn't have a whole lot to say about same-sex attraction, let alone the local leaders having any revelations for me. No, this was one of those things each individual wrestles with, one's own personal trial of faith and strength. I wondered if it might one day become my sacrifice like Abraham's, or my own personal Gethsemane. Even Christ was alone in the flesh in Gethsemane. Surely God's attentive love and strength was enough for my comparatively meager trial. No need to reveal it or bring others into it.

I didn't think I was particularly troubled by my homosexuality into my twenties. Life was young, I had time to sort things out, I had some exploration of relationships with girls to do, I had experience to gain, I was engaged in my education and enjoyed a rich social life with fun and uplifting friendships. I wasn't falling apart over it but rather felt like I was doing really well and was really happy and buoyed by what I regarded as the Spirit.

Looking back, I wouldn't go back to the brand of "happiness" I experienced in my early twenties because, despite the relatively carefree point in life and the fun and social activity, I now see what I was stifling, or what I was holding back from people I could have had more intimate relationships with. It now makes more sense that people said, "I've known you for two years, and I consider you a good friend and enjoy spending time with you, but sometimes I feel like I barely know you." Some of that is just my personality, but I believe some of it was the product of holding back a significant part of my life I'd so thoroughly downplayed in my mind and letting that make me feel partially but inherently...hidden.

Maybe I was learning a lot on my own, finding inner strength and confronting exactly as much as I was prepared for at the time. Maybe there's value for some in staying "closeted" much further into life. Maybe some of us are to take the role of quietly coming out to everyone around us, others are most effective as public faces, and others best work out their happiness quietly to themselves without the added complexity of expressing their inner workings except to those most intimately involved in or affected by their lives, such as spouses. I don't know for sure. But I hit a breaking point.


Time, age, and experience coaxed me out into human observation of the issue. Maybe it was partly because it hit me: if our thoughts and deeds will be known in the next life anyway, why not start getting used to that now and minimizing the "surprises". Maybe I was tired of being the eternisingle guy at the Institute and frustrated over non-progressive relationships with great girls and my inability to feel for them what I saw them feeling for me in their eyes. Maybe, as I said in a recent post, God had plans to force me to connect with the people he wanted me to understand were placed here for my benefit in ways I hadn't appreciated. Maybe something inside of me was already questioning whether I was truly ready to face the possibility of not being blessed with the family I'd always wanted and believed I would find if I was just faithful and diligent enough. Maybe I wondered if I'd lost that blessing through my own inability to keep my thoughts or actions quite pure enough and questioning why those who seemed less gospel-centered and diligent were happily and eternally married with children. Whatever it was, I was experiencing layers of complexity I'd previously not needed to confront, and I started to realize that in my case, I had to be open to the possibility that I just might need more than faith, prayers, and watching for "the right girl".

I began by telling my bishop, who referred me to online groups and Evergreen, and it was probably most of a year before I participated in the online groups (about the time I wrote my first essay on SGA), most of another year before I met any other "mohos" in person, beginning with one, then another a few months later, another a few months later, and a more after that, and about two and a half years before I told any of my friends about my "issue" and attended my first Evergreen conference. I told my family more than a year later, and one of their biggest concerns was that I had borne this secret for so long and they wished I had not thought that was necessary. I understand the slow route. I wouldn't push anyone to tread it faster than they have strength. But it was time, for me.

As I began to really embrace the idea that this is "only part of me" by being unafraid to address it with others, I discovered the beauty of relying on other people, of connecting with community, of "letting people in more", and trusting the counsel that we weren't meant to be alone or suffer trials by ourselves except in certain clearly necessary times. I still believe there was a season to learn from my solitude and reach into myself, but I also discovered the necessity of reaching outward as well and exposing myself a bit more to offer others the opportunity to help me, let their experience inform and support me, and learn from my experience without having to live what I lived. In turn, many of them opened up more to me than they had before, or more than they do to others, and we began to really see beyond each other's surface. I felt strongly that addressing this issue was most impacting and meaningful in a personal, rather than anonymous and impersonal, way, though there was value in both.


My path may not be desirable to you. I may not be where you want to be. You may be tempted to discount my story or assertions because...well...look where it's gotten me. But I can tell you that wherever I "end up", I don't know if I could ever regret my decision to tell people--in my own time and order, yes, but to tell. It's not about grandstanding. It's not about putting yourself on a pedestal to show how amazing you are for overcoming. It's not about demanding pity or a "get out of jail free" card. It's not about identifying with gay culture or defining yourself by your attractions any more than you define yourself by your hair color or personality temperament. It's about learning intimacy in friendship and not just with your future spouse, about removing the shame from an issue which is commandeered by pop culture and crude entertainment, about having the courage to be whole, about giving yourself the opportunity to be accountable and others the opportunity to grow with you, about letting others know there is someone who understands and will not lead them away from their most cherished beliefs. The most confident, happy same-sex attracted (gay) people I know are those who have shed and rejected the stigmas, own their quirks and shortcomings, aren't afraid to speak about their homosexuality as it becomes appropriate to do so, follow their convictions, and have worked towards increasing openness in their lives.

That doesn't mean you have to announce it on Facebook or come out in sacrament meeting; it just means not stubbornly refusing to tell people when it may be an opportunity to grow and to help others. I can't think of anyone I've spoken with who truly regrets having opened up in deliberate and productive ways to others in their life about this issue, even if there were difficulties, fears, doubts, or repercussions along the way. I think most healthy people prefer to be around people who are self-actualized, who are comfortable in their own skin and exude self-awareness, self-acceptance, and open authenticity. If someone can fully accept and express his or her own shortcomings, challenges, conflicts, or flaws along with their strengths and talents, or is at least working in that direction, then that ability shows and can reasonably be expected towards other people, and people perceive that.


Everything in wisdom and in order. Each thing in its season. We all are learning different things at different times. We have timelines for our own growth. Had I tried to follow someone else's timeline, my own growth might have been stifled or derailed. I'm not going to tell someone to come out now or claim to know what they need and what's best for them but invite all to remain open to the possibility of opening up more as they're ready.

If a widowed single mother never admitted how hard she's struggled and only silently relied on God for strength, she may feel that help and strength, but how would her family and friends know they have an opportunity to exercise their love for her and provide her with some temporal help to allow her to focus on her emotional healing for a while? How might others be missing an opportunity to learn from her experience which they may also confront someday? If alcoholics never told others about their struggle, or they only told their bishops or found resources online, how would anyone else ever know where to find others who understand and can support them? Thankfully, there are "anonymous" groups for them, but how amazing would it be if newly struggling alcoholics nobody suspects as having a problem didn't have to quietly search alone for resources and lose precious time in the inefficiency of figuring it out on their own but knew someone in their family, neighborhood, or congregation who has already been down that road and can quickly and safely usher them towards positive healing? If parents never discuss their personal trials and triumphs with their children, how will their kids know Mom and Dad are real people who might actually understand a thing or two about growing up?

I believe understanding and progress come from dialog, from opening up to each other, from seeing each other more wholly, from removing the shame around being human, being part of a "fallen" world even while trying to overcome it, from making starkly real the need for more than going to the right building and singing pretty hymns and saying fervently whispery prayers, from showing your faith by your struggle, from removing the masks of perfection to reveal the weathered soul. I also believe that if we don't speak for ourselves, someone will speak for us, usually with an agenda. I believe there is huge value in putting real faces on the issue to remind those for whom this is an abstract, objective concept that it is deeply personal for their neighbor, their daughter, their father, their stake president, or their nanna. And I believe we should all work towards such authenticity in our own time and where we believe is most productive for our own good and the benefit of others.

Some of my related past thoughts on "coming out":

Coming out with context

Why To Come Out

Coming Out Over Time


Jumping Off Of Pedestals

Exposing Yourself

Anonymous Schmanonymous

New features

I've added a "Highlights from the past" section where I'll post old, forgotten posts as I incidentally remember them, in case anyone's interested in my old faves.

I've also added a "Popular Posts" section lower down which shows the most-loaded posts from my blog, most of which are due to random Google searches, which makes me chuckle, so I'll leave it up until I get sick of it.

Oh, and while I'm pointing out boring details, I've been going back and finishing, deleting, or publishing old posts from years past in an effort to clean out my many drafts. So far, I've published the following three old posts:

Chat with a friend about goals and guy troubles

Do What You Enjoy

Choosing Sides

25 October 2010

The pitfall of dismissiveness

Observation: talk to any random person on the street, and they don't know anything about Evergreen, Exodus, Love Won Out, or reparative therapy. Never heard of it. Talk to a gay person about them: some have heard, but the vast majority haven't even given it a second thought and chalk it up to bigots and self-loathers who would strip them of the happiness they've found in learning to accept themselves and learning that God accepts them. Talk to an LDS or formerly LDS gay person who was in the church in the last ten years but is same-sex dating, and they've most likely heard of it, and many of them have some strongly worded opinions about them, but relatively few of them have ever been to an Evergreen Conference or read a book by or been counseled by a reputable reparative therapist (now now, don't jump on the 'oxymoron' jokes). Generally, they're completely dismissive of efforts to live a heterosexual lifestyle as "lying to one's self", and they're confident those who promote reparative therapy or a self-denial approach have all been long-since debunked as a bunch of quacks, and only desperate people could want to try to live the heterosexual lifestyle.


It's a classic error, really, in any society or group: the lack of effort to really explore the assertions made because...hey...it's obvious it's all bunk because look: an authoritative organization says it's often harmful, and I know tons of people who tried it and thought they were changing but ultimately decided they were fooling themselves and are happier since "accepting themselves". Of course, they don't think about the fact that OF COURSE that's who they know. Are they really going to run into the people who are still at it and purposefully and mostly happily living the way they believe they're supposed to?

Others have said, "Every gay guy I know who got married did OK for a while but just couldn't sustain it and either suffered through a lonely, awful marriage or he eventually broke it off, often after there were kids involved, and was happier overall but carried the regrets of a broken home. Every one." I've asked them, "Did any of them openly discuss their homosexuality with their wives beforehand?" The answer? Nope. And again, what of the guys who have had successful marriages? Do they run in gay social circles? They do exist, you know. Do I think they're much rarer than the more tragic stories? Yes, I do, but they exist, and perhaps in increasing numbers as they find healthier ways to live their alternative-alternative lifestyle.


But here's the problem: when the whole argument is based on, "No gay guy can really marry a woman and stay happily married very long," or, "It's so tragic when people can't accept who they are and live miserable, self-loathing lives," guess what happens when the people who've heard that and nothing else about reparative therapy go to a conference like Evergreen's or Love Won Out, and they personally meet dozens of people who seem completely genuine and sincere and say, "I do exist, and there are increasingly many of us," and they are presented with statistics and theories which fit the patterns in their own lives. Suddenly, it becomes clear to these newcomers that the outspoken gay people had no idea what they were talking about, and the reparatives are not only disarmingly charming but are surprisingly intelligent. Suddenly, everything they've heard before may feel like a big lie, designed to deceive them from giving these good people a chance to show them a better way...


Of course, I've seen this same phenomenon everywhere, particularly in politics and religion. I think sometimes we think that to actually address an "opponent's" arguments would be to validate them, so it's more convincing to just dismiss them and scoff at their claims or satirize them while knocking down straw men. But when someone investigates and finds validity in their arguments, and sees that nobody has bothered to refute those arguments on their logical merits, they are likely to draw the conclusion that nobody has refuted them because there is no refutation.

Maybe it's because opponents' claims are actually complex, and the refutation even more complex, and it's easier to say, "Trust us, they're not right," than to say, "Fine, here's the evidence and analysis, and certain things they're saying are rational, but their conclusions are drawn way beyond what's supported by research," or whatever. Goes for people on both sides of most issues, as far as I can tell.


So setting aside the emotion-charged rhetoric and attacks on ex-gay crusaders who go on vacations with RentBoys, where are the rational responses to the claims made at an Evergreen Conference, for example, or Joseph Nicolosi's methods? I do know there are some responses to their claims because I've found some, but they're not the arguments you typically find, and it seems a bit subjective as to whom you believe or which scientific, replicable studies you glean statistics from and how you interpret the numbers and personal stories of people who say, "I don't know about the numbers, but X worked for me, and I'm happy."

There's no Anti-Evergreen conference where you can go get charged up and hear it all packaged in an organized response, buoyed by the sense that you've found rational arguments nobody else has bothered to piece together and enjoy the fellowship of others who are in the know. There are few web sites, if any, dedicated to responding to the claims of ex-gay ministries or reparative therapists on the merits of their foundational theories and statistical support rather than relying on emotionally-charged rhetoric and exposing supposed hypocrisy of their promulgators.

I have my own theories about certain things, and I want to know how to find out if studies have been done along the lines of my questions but haven't found anything researched. Is that because nobody gives their claims enough credibility to bother investing money for research to refute them? Is it because the research has been done and is old news and I just don't know where to find it? Is it because it's just a barely newborn field of research, wide open for real investigation to test claims and better understand the human psyche?


Of course, there's another facet to this on top of any rational approach: Evergreen offers shining faces and happy countenances, a grand battle cry to join the army of God and press forth to Celestial Glory and eternal joy. What does "being gay" offer that can compare to that grandeur and "larger than myself" "eternal glory" sense of mission and purpose?


Maybe if those who do not agree with Evergreen were a little less stubbornly zealous, there might be fewer who are surprised when they discover Evergreen to consist of some apparently very good, intelligent, self-determined people, which has made it easier for presenters to say, "See? The gay people who want you to be miserable like unto them have lied to you about who we are, so what else have they been lying about to spread their dogma?" I know you may not believe it's worth the effort, but I kind of wish more people had been to Evergreen and could witness how reasonable they are in so many ways, even if you disagree with their interpretations of data or underlying theories and the way they connect them to the data.

So, in the interest of finding out which ideas are straw men and which are critical points of discussion, or addressing the issues in a rational way rather than foolishly thinking so many chumps are "duped" by "stupid" theories and mirages of happiness, let's address not just our emotional reactions or dogmatic adherence to gay-influenced APA committee edicts but address the actual issues, ask the critical questions, respond to the science and psychology, and risk being wrong or escalating and accelerating the intellectual arms race.

...Tomorrow or the next day, 'cause I'm tired now.

22 October 2010

I am not what I don't believe

Part of my distress lately has come from the nature of my focus. Triggered or exacerbated by some stressful conversations of harsh judgement or even slightly derisive bewilderment and very painful and sudden rejection of some I felt "safe" with, I've experienced some intense emotions, with a lot of feelings of pain, rejection, etc. I have allowed certain of people's reactions to my current decisions and perspectives, and my intense sense that previously abstract differences in ideology had become an extremely personal war, to derail my focus.

I had been confidently pursuing what I believed, had done the best I could with the revelations or realizations I've found, and tried to live a life consistent with the principles I believe and the values I hold. I knew many in my life couldn't fully accept it, but they didn't have to: I wasn't beholden to their perception of truth or my former perception of it. But after feeling rejected just a bit too much, I became defensive, hurt, and a bit defeated. I wondered if pursuing truth really was worth the strife and the worry others seemed to experience over it and the friction it brought into my relationships either due to their reactions to my beliefs or my reactions to their concern or withdrawal. I started to focus much less on what I believe and value and instead on what I don't believe, on what I don't share with so many in my life anymore, on the community I was no longer a part of.

Not only did this create a sense of warfare against potentially misleading and destructive philosophies I "didn't believe", but I let it get to me to such an extent that I started defining myself in "nots" when contrasted with those who believe in the LDS church doctrines: "I'm a non-believer, I'm a fallen Mormon, I'm the devil (in their eyes) who used to be a golden child, I'm not a theist, I don't pray, I don't go to church, I don't share their faith or their joy in those beliefs, I don't accept what the general authorities say over the pulpit as scripture or even inspired, I don't...I'm not...I'm non-..." I lost sight of my convictions by looking at myself through the eyes of my self ten years ago.

Because my beliefs aren't enough for some to be at ease with me, because some people I care about have shut me out or see me as fallen and are praying for me to correct my ways, because some have limited their contact with me to not be influenced by my ideas, and because I completely understand that in LDS doctrine as the vast majority understand it, it doesn't matter how "good" a person is if they don't believe in the atonement or in a real, literal "Father in Heaven" because that is the whole crux of our very existence and our divine destiny for all eternity, I subconsciously started seeing myself through the eyes of my own fears, and it was not uplifting.

At some point, even though I see value in at least remaining open to the possibility that the tenets I used to believe in are true after all, I have to stop listening to the shaming or fearful voices around me and especially from my own "corrective" voice echoing from years past, insisting I must be fooling myself if I think I'm happy now, that I'm pitiable and deceived, that I've not tried hard enough, that I'll be redeemed only once I come back to the fold, that I'm no longer welcome in the sanctuaries or inner circles of those I care so much about because we no longer share what used to be precious to me and still is to them. I could choose to listen to that voice, but...why? In case it's true that I'm deceived and fallen, even though it doesn't ring true, despite my letting it create distance between myself and a newly pushed-away "them"? Because it would make life easier for me to just throw my stressful friendships away and blame it on judgements they may or may not actually be making?

I'm remembering to define myself not by what I am not, or what I "don't believe". I also don't believe there are monsters under my bed or ghosts creating every unexplained noise in the house. I don't believe the Hindu gods exist in any literal sense. I don't believe there's a fabulous pink hippo sitting in the chair next to me. I don't believe Islam or Catholicism is the one true religion as millions and millions of people in the world do. If I were from a family devoted to Islam, my lack of belief in the writings in the Qur'an might be a great source of stress and alienation for me, but I'm not, and it isn't.

When certain beliefs began to unravel, I held on to what I still did "know" or believe. I figured there was no point in scratching the whole just because a part was not what it appeared, and I knew throwing the whole thing out would probably leave a huge void. Over time, many gaps were filled in nicely, and I reluctantly let go of some lingering but withered conceptions to see what would happen. I think I'm still in that process, though towards the later part of it.

I still believe in many principles. I still hold many values. I still recognize forces and influences greater than myself, whether or not they have any grand, mystical explanation or personification. I may not believe in all of the things most people really close to me believe are the most important things to believe, but I have to define myself by my own beliefs, not in a "my way not God's" attitude but in a "this is what I believe is true and right, and whatever I might be missing will hopefully come in time" attitude. I have to pursue my own path and my own convictions and identify my sources of comfort, joy, confidence, peace, and hope. I have them. I have to follow truth the best I can and not cling to the way I used to see things just because once upon a time, they were enough, and for many, they still are enough.

No matter where I am headed, I will bring with me a firm belief in the value of circumscribing all truth, a desire for and belief in true conviction, belief in the necessity of being teachable rather than stiff-necked in the face of truths which are difficult to accept, belief in the power of bowing in acknowledgment of the unknown, striving for the harmony of thinking critically and adhering to proven principles even while being fully broken and freshly malleable, the resolution and motivating force of freely offering and requesting forgiveness, the loving devotion of service, a recognition of the ennobling influence of "tough love", a belief in the absolute necessity of remembering to view others as an all-knowing, all-loving parent might see them, the energizing, cleansing effect of maintaining a universal perspective in the face of potential entrapment into self-pitying patterns, a belief in the power of faith in the unseen and surrender of the need to control what is not in your control, a belief in the empowerment of self-mastery, a belief that weaknesses can train and instruct us rather than simply limiting us, a belief in the necessity of speaking up and standing for something, and so, so much more.

I will bring beliefs and faith which theoretically, to most theists, shouldn't hold up without God's power and influence in my life, such as a reassurance that whether from God or from somewhere within me, I've found the strength to weather hard times and make weaknesses become strong and will be able to do so again. I (cautiously) hope to be continually tested and humbled enough to be compelled to find that strength when I forget to exercise it of my own accord.

I believe or suspect things which an average LDS person may not relate to or agree with. And though I may respond to a question here or there or attempt to articulate aspects of those perspectives, I am no more keen on "defending" my beliefs now than I was defending my LDS beliefs against other Christians. It's time to re-learn to not defensively justify my beliefs but to embrace truth as I understand it, acknowledge that not all things will be known to any of us in this life, to share what makes me happy and what seems true, to offer perspective and comfort when asked and request it when needed, and trust that "it will all work out in the end" if we're each doing our best and opening our hearts and minds.

I recognize that increasingly demarcated battle lines may sometimes necessitate looking across enemy lines into the eyes of people I love. It would be naive to think we can all hold hands and sing songs of peaceful unification. There will always be beliefs which impose upon the beliefs or behaviors of others, and there will always be differing ideas of what "freedom" means or what is true. There will always be those who seek a preemptive and overpowering offensive rather than placing trust in negotiation and reconciliation. There will always be those who feign peaceful, open approaches with underhanded designs to confirm that distrust. Distrust and the perception that beliefs are irreconcilable and must be fought over are self-fulfilling and self-perpetuating, but they're not about to magically dissolve. I don't know what to do about that except take up arms when forced and try not to let bitterness and hatred in, to show forth increasing love after the battle, whatever side I end up on.

Wherever my "path" leads, whatever I choose to believe and trust, whatever truths seem self-evident to me, I have to remember that I'm not defined by what I don't believe but by what I do believe. I am defined not by what I am not but by who I am, and who I am will be reflected in my decisions and relationships throughout my life, the influence I have and the legacy I leave, the lives touched for the better. This goes far beyond motivating a few people to toe the party line more closely, leaving a money-amassing corporate empire, or leaving fruitcake on doorsteps one month a year. If I get to the end of my life, and nobody can honestly say they are profoundly better because of my life, I don't know if it matters how many fun experiences I had, how many cookies I made for people, how "right" I was about my beliefs, or whether I ever got my dream job. I don't want it to be about having something to prove, though. I want to live the best I know how, seek out truth to the best of my ability, leave the world a little better than I found it, encourage and enable others to do the same, experience and benefit from the talents and contributions of others who have achieved excellence in art, science, engineering, design, philosophy, or other aspects of life, and make cherished, shared memories along the way.

21 October 2010

All tied up neatly with a bow

I used to think any time I shared anything other than positive, faith-filled thoughts, I needed to make sure it was all neatly tied up at the end with a faith-affirming thought because to express anything other than positivity was not constructive and could undermine the faith of others. I no longer believe that.

My practice of wrapping everything up with "but since I have faith in God's plan and know God is with me, everything will turn out for the best if I am humbly doing my best and have faith, so I needn't fear, and that's all I need to know" was fine and dandy for everyone else. But even though I truly meant it, and it was truly all I needed to not just carry on but press forward with energy and happiness, when the comfort of those thoughts eventually (we're talking years) waned somewhat in certain ways, despite every effort to "be strong and faithful" and to maintain and testify of "an eternal perspective", I found myself in the unfortunate position of being everyone else's strength with nobody to be mine except an intangible being in whom I believed but whose eyes I couldn't see, whose physical touch I couldn't feel, whose companionship I could only experience in the abstract, which had always been enough. I cringed when I realized the old Barbara Streisand song I'd never liked suddenly made some sense: people who need people indeed. Maybe God was teaching me to connect with others more completely, I thought, sending me out the front door to learn to play with the other kids. Maybe I was wondering whether I was supposed to be learning more about myself and life from my conflicts rather than setting them aside as mere temptations, and I had a notion that God was compelling me to face them more starkly. Or maybe I was experiencing a sort of existential crisis of realizing that people of many other religions relied on basically the same idea of God being with them, too, and pondering on the meaning implicit in that. Maybe it was some mix of the above.

Everyone had always told me what a strength I was, how amazing my outlook was, how much they were buoyed by my pure, simple faith in the gospel. They were so glad someone dared to speak the plain and simple truth and wasn't caught up in the artificial shades of grey or mired by worldly concerns or worries of the flesh which are eternally inconsequential. I was given pause a couple of times when bishops seemed almost incredulously impressed by something I said, and I wondered why it should be so rare as to surprise them, or a mission president gave a faint hint of an expression as if to say, "Your simple faith is a great asset for now, but one day, that simplicity is going to be rocked, and you're going to see beyond the neat and tidy answers, but I'm not going to be the one to break it to you because your innocence is beautiful." I often had a vague feeling that maybe, in some way, I had yet to learn or experience some things and might see what others seemed to see, but that even if that was true, I wasn't going to let that alter my simple faith in the power of God to help us overcome all things.

What I didn't realize was that, though there were many who craved my positive words and focus on "just have faith, and all will be well," there were many others who silently believed my simplistic approach was as harmful as it was helpful, and though they most often didn't give me a chance to prove otherwise, they were sure I wouldn't understand their situation. They were sure I'd give them some prescription to take two of these and call me in the morning. They were sure I'd just tell them to smile and everything would be OK. I knew better by my post-mission years. At least, in a detached way I did. I understood that some people's issues required more than a positive pep-talk or a reminder that God was with them. They had issues beyond what most of us had confronted at that age. They had complications, sometimes from their own decisions, often from actions of others, which clearly required, in addition to God's healing, professional help or the perspective of someone who understood firsthand what they were going through. I wished I could know what they'd been through to help them, but I knew I just hadn't been there, and someone else was better equipped to walk with them.

Maybe my own life became more complicated. Maybe I complicated my life in my head. Maybe faith that things would work out was fine and dandy until I really confronted a possible life alone or felt the sting of losing my youth and desirability and let doubt creep in out of fear and desperation that it might not be worth the sacrifice. Maybe losing another great girl because I couldn't fall in love with her brought up questions I'd shoved under the rug believing "it's OK if I don't know all the answers now", and now some of those questions didn't seem so optional after all. Maybe I realized my "faith" had really been a refusal to truly, honestly consider what might be reality. Maybe my old coping mechanisms of "just keep swimming" and "remember the eternal perspective" were worn out and ineffective after so long.

I no longer believe I undermine someone's faith or optimism by admitting I'm down or struggling. I no longer believe I must wait until resolution before expressing conflict and confusion, even doubt. I believe there's value in openly needing as well as offering strength and perspective with other people. I believe there's value in expressing struggles without tidying it up, to reflect on it openly rather than alone, so people have the opportunity to help you in kind, and so you don't get caught up in the notion that it's only OK to be struggling as long as it's not a "real" struggle but is already resolved or in the past. I believe getting overly focused on putting on a happy face or constantly affirming everyone else's faith often leads to a lack of authenticity without the burden-bearer even realizing it. I believe there's something beautiful about saying, "I know I'm usually very positive, but...I'm struggling, and I don't want to discount God's help because he has offered it abundantly, but I need people, too, who can walk with me, hold me, share with me, mourn with me, and rejoice with me."

But there's no need to pretend to be struggling more than you are (or are aware) just to seem authentic. And there is something beautiful about trying to find the positive in even the crappiest situations. There's something so good-hearted and lovable about a person who wants to help lift others up and give them hope in some small or significant way. There's honor in finding solutions out of problems and seeking ways to move forward with optimism rather than letting the muck hold you back.

Authenticity, self-discovery, acknowledgement of struggle, faith, perspective, recognition of harsh reality, disillusionment, joy, hope, resting, pressing forward...we're all at varying points of balance at different times, and maybe it's OK and even good that we're all balanced a bit differently from each other. And running into people who are more positive reminds me to focus on the positive as well, even if I have my suspicions about the sustainability of their brand of optimism. While letting people know it's not all skipping in sunny fields of flowers, it's OK to skip sometimes, too, when I feel like it. In any case, I probably don't present my life and situation immaculately packaged and neatly tied up in a pretty bow, but I was always more interested in what was inside the package, anyway.

The risks of questioning aloud

I think there are various reasons I've held back vocalizing certain things in such a "public" or diffuse way as blogging it here, particularly concerning reparative therapy and attempts to live a heterosexual lifestyle. I haven't wanted to "attack" things people close to me seem very sensitive about or make it seem like I'm directly criticizing their lives or relationships by asking questions. I haven't wanted to be lumped in with acerbic cynics and uninformed critics. I haven't wanted people who tend to selectively gather information to read my thoughts and take them quietly to those who profess healing through all things reparative and have their questions silently addressed behind closed doors, away from critical response or dynamic conversation where the discussion will be fair. I can hear the responses now, "O-Mo is bright, but he hasn't tried this, he doesn't know what he's talking about and can't speak from experience. I can. And you can't deny a personal story." I haven't wanted to seem confrontational. I haven't wanted to be just another non-professional voice speaking about theories which therapists have been refining for years.

And I think part of me would rather hit someone with certain ideas in private, teachable moments, when they seem open to questioning and really considering "another side", to increase the impact of the ideas and really try to get them across in a meaningful way. ...Which I guess is like addressing them behind closed doors, away from critical response. Aw, balls, I hate it when I turn stuff around on myself.

And to be honest, even though I do think I have a better-than-average grasp on a lot of the stuff I've held back, there's always a small fear that when I actually try to vocalize it, I will be challenged in a way which will make me look ignorant, or I'll find that I didn't understand as well as I thought I did. This has always been a factor for me in holding back questions. I probably would have learned more in school if it weren't for this hesitation. This is no exception.

But as I've noticed so few people discussing the topic in anything but combative or dismissive terms, I want to get some ideas a little more out in the open. I may address issues around these ideas more in upcoming posts because I'm ready to ask questions openly, to invite dialog, to see where I'm wrong or need to challenge my paradigms more, or to potentially challenge others' paradigms.

And to be somewhat painfully honest, part of me wants to believe I would be completely happy with a wife who complements and brings out the best in me and children we have together, in whom we see ourselves, free from the theoretically unnecessary but very real and present burdens of societal defiance, legal and procreative limitations, and lingering, back-of-the-mind questions or "what ifs" about what will become of our relationship if we continue after death. Despite feeling confidently ready to face whatever might come while I was dating a great guy, and believing we could do anything if we did it together, the loss of that relationship has revealed lingering or resurfacing "unresolved issues". So I'm not so very interested in pontificating or staging a witty "wise-guy" routine right now. I'm more interested in saying what I'm thinking, raising questions, sifting out emotional reactions from rational assessments, and inciting some critical thought in others and in myself.

But to those of you afraid of losing the more wry or clownish O-Mo (if any such people made it to this point of the post), fear not: dry snark and sassy smirks may not abound, but come on...it's me...they're not going away.

20 October 2010

Manfast undermined

I've decided it's best for me to be single for a while, and I've been feeling good about that decision. Minimizing that distraction in my life may, I'm hoping, help me focus on what I need to: finding work, figuring out what I want from life independent of companionship over which I may or may not have much control, determining a career path, becoming financially stable again, finding community as needed, etc. Some people can do all of that and date, but for now, I see a personal need to become my own sort of monk.

But some little tyrannical part of my brain is staging a coup as it faces entering the romantic desert. The gym and streets and cafes have magically filled up with attractive guys. When I got back onto a dating site (I deleted all pics and info on my profile a few weeks ago) to check a message from a friend, I took a few minutes to look at profiles I'd previously bookmarked and thought, "Wow, there were some interesting guys in here I had forgotten about and never contacted because I was busy replying to messages from people who had contacted me. I was going to contact them when I felt ready to really start actively dating. But no, I'm not dating, so close the site and forget about it. You have bigger fish to fry." And I felt resolved and confident about letting go of the search for a while, even for a couple of years. And then an attractive, nice-looking, interesting-looking guy who shows signs of possibly being 'family' walked by. Yeah? Well, I'm not falling for it. *whimper*

Well dang, this feels a bit like back when I wasn't going to ever date guys and was going to be open to a relationship with a girl. For a long time, I've not really thought a lot about it. So there's a hot guy. Great. He's not gay, so no point in flirting, just appreciate and move on. Done. No big deal. If he seems gay, great, maybe a bit of eye contact or something, give him a boost, but I don't hook up with random guys from the gym, so admire and move on. Done. No big deal. After all, if I wanted to just have some fun with a hot guy, I have several options on that dating site who have made it pretty clear they're game, but that's not what I really want, even though part of me desperately clamors to keep itself alive.

Then the voice in my brain: "OK, so I'm not going to get emotionally wrapped up with someone, but what about just finding friends, and maybe some of those friends coming with recreational benefits? I mean, I've kinda been there before, and if both parties understood that's what it was, and you didn't have the whole conflicted Mormon thing mixed in, maybe it'd be fine. Most people live that way, right? Why impose the need to label a relationship or get emotions entangled with a little affection and fun?" Uh-huh, then I remind myself who I'm talking to, and I think of how grateful I've been that I haven't gotten caught up in that way of thinking despite nearly doing so, and I think of how great it was to be with someone who I was confident wasn't in it primarily for the physical because we were waiting until it was "right" and we had a great time together without leaning on physical stuff, and what affection we did show really felt, to me, like it was special between us, and that's what I really want sexual expression to be about for me.

The voice insists: "OK, that's what you want, but maybe there are different kinds of relationships, and it's OK to save physical expression of a special nature in the special relationships and let it be just for fun in others. Maybe it's OK to not ascribe all kinds of meaning to physical expression when you don't need to, as long as you're being safe and not risking your health." *sigh* No, I have to admit what I want and what I believe will help me build relationships worth building even if I don't necessarily see the alternative as inherently "wrong" or "evil".

Is my increased perception of attractive guys the product of facing a desert in which I won't have an outlet for flirtation and of subconsciously recognizing with dismay that I'll not be enjoying any romantic physical affection for a long, long while? Is it because I've been so disinterested in attraction with anyone else since the breakup that now that it's coming back, it feels more magnified again? Is it "temptation" whispering its dark seduction? Is it a non-warm-fuzzy truth knocking gently which I'm reticent to embrace, as I have been in the past with other concepts I eventually had to accept as true even if I chose not to live them, myself?

Do most missionaries preparing to serve have to keep reminding themselves of the purpose for locking their hearts, which works for a while, but then they see a hottie and have to shake it off all over? Ha, no wonder some of my comps were such drooling messes sometimes.

So here I am, re-training myself to acknowledge how nice and intelligent and physically attractive a guy seems but trying to train my brain not to look at anyone as a potential dating prospect and moving on with my business. This will probably be helpful if I decide I want to pursue one of those procreative companionships that are all the rage in mohodom. Maybe my manfast will lead me to a healthier, more hopeful relationship down the road, or maybe it will make me a simpering, withered, sexually repressed ball of awkward, or maybe it will ready me to have my eyes more open for attractive women. Or maybe it'll last for another few months until I meet the next irresistible prospect. Shoot, this is gonna be a challenge. Life needs challenges. Bring it.

What about dope in the gay brain?

I just watched The Science of Sex Appeal. I'm particularly intrigued by the work of Helen Fisher in studying companionship and love as they relate to brain systems. Her brain imaging studies fascinate me and have raised question or two.

She's found certain areas of the brain tend to "light up" or activate in brain scans when people think about the person they're in love with. I can't help but wonder if gay people's brains light up in the same way as heterosexual people's. And I wonder if a gay man's brain shows all the same areas of activity, including what she referred to as a little dopamine factory, when thinking of his opposite-sex partner as a straight man's or as another gay man's who's thinking of his same-sex partner.

If a typical gay man's brain activates in the same way for his wife as another's does for his male partner, I wonder how much that would quell the voices decrying his affections as fake, or if they'd still insist they're contrived. If it doesn't show the same activity, I wonder if it would change anything about the dialog. I still doubt it would deter most from trying.

Incidentally, she has found that the same dopamine-producing area of the brain which is active when people have recently fallen in love is still activated when long-term partners think of each other after many years together. It seems, she said, that people can, in fact, stay "in love" long after the initial romantic obsession (apparently connected with low serotonin, which is similarly correlated with other forms of obsessive thought patterns) has passed and the more lasting, established bond of security and attachment has developed.

So hey you out there in MOM-land, will you please go get your brains scanned to satisfy my scientific curiosity? :-)

Here's a lecture Helen gave at TED a few years ago (I love TED lectures):

19 October 2010

Free Career Counseling vs. Paid Therapist

Well, facing a car insurance payment and cell phone bill and having no expected income for at least another month, I've realized I simply can't pay for even one counseling session. I'm a bit down about having to cancel my appointments, but so it goes.

I'm at my most open, teachable, and needful of help, and I can't afford to get the help I want. How...appropriate. Fortunately, I went to a job-hunting seminar tonight, and the guy who gave it (I turned out to be the only attendee at that location) told me there are free career counselors at the non-profit organization he works for and that I should never have to pay for career counseling.

I didn't expound on the fact that I also wanted to be open to possible personal counseling as it arose incidentally, like focusing on removing possible blocks to my decision-making processes on a deeper level rather than just having someone help me map out some formula.

But since I realize I can't afford the "real" counseling anyway, I'll go to the career counselors ASAP and give it a shot. Maybe I'll at least get some work that will allow me to pay for the counseling I want. I'm worried that if I wait, I will be in a rut by the time I can afford it. But hey, maybe the free career counseling will really be all I need. Here's to hoping for more than a formulaic approach.

I'm posting this here because much of my readership is likely to have seen counselors in the past. Does anyone have experience with career counseling at organizations like WorkSource or know how it compares to open-ended career counseling with a therapist who does career counseling incidentally or as part of their focus rather than exclusively?

Coming out with context

This has nothing to do with "coming out" in the "I'm here, I'm queer" sense. It's about admitting my own context and trying to be forthcoming with it. I'm one who believes ideas stand on their own: if they're valid, they're valid, and if they're not, they're not, no matter who said them or why. However, I also recognize that the tone, connotations of wording, underlying perspectives and nuances around an idea, motives for the timing in which they're presented, etc all come into play and ought to be considered rather than naively ignored as completely irrelevant.

Sometimes, I think about writing something, then I think, "No, if I say that, then this or that group will just have a heyday with it, using it to discredit something else I said or assuming to know me based on that statement and the way it fits into their own paradigm." But I've realized: they're doing that anyway and always will.

I've also thought, "Well what if I admit I'm thinking or feeling something, and that later changes, but in the meantime, it led some people to think similarly when I will later realize I was wrong?" I used to edit myself a lot due to that concern. I wanted to make sure I was reasonably certain of something, or it had been a very consistent thought for a long time, before articulating it. I still usually do that, to be honest, which is probably part of why I have so much to say now that I've been sitting on for so long. But I've also decided something else: in today's information age, people are going to find all kinds of perspectives, and those who hide too much will be sniffed out by those who have been around the block. And while you definitely don't want to unnecessarily lead people into dangerous or destructive paths, you may save someone from such a path by being the first person they've seen admit it's just not as simplistic as everyone else seems to be claiming. But more than that, I've decided that whatever I decide, my decision will be that much more informed and authentic if I've dared to admit that I haven't always thought a certain way, if my thoughts have reflected honest conflict.

It doesn't mean much to me when someone glosses over the details to assert, "I tried the gay lifestyle, and I found out it was all a fake of what I really want," because I know many who say that, and I know for a fact they only "tried the lifestyle" in the most unhealthy, sporadic way possible, or for less than a year. Same goes for, "I tried being Mormon, but underneath the veneer of happy families and conviction is a dark and twisted world of hypocrisy and elitism," because I know plenty of people who never really seemed to exercise faith and trust in gaining what I would call a "true" testimony. But when someone's voice, their ideas and reflections rather than a vague statement that they've been there, sounds like an echo from my own past, I tend to think, "This is someone who has been there..."

And sometimes, I start waxing theoretical or principle-based, and I think I lose people's interest or ability to see where I'm going with something. So be it; sometimes, that's deliberate. But sometimes I've refrained from sharing "where I am" in order to "let my ideas stand for themselves" rather than mixing them up into a "story" full of subjective bias and impossible-to-fully-convey context, paradigms, experiences, etc. Of course, bias is there whether you explain its source or not. And some people's minds are opened most effectively by touching stories of personal experience. But sometimes it seems people open their ears more when they don't know exactly what angle you're coming from, and the more vague approach can illustrate a critical analysis they might not have otherwise been willing to take. I've always known many people withhold trust or refuse to listen if they don't know someone's motives, as if their ideas, or the underlying principles, are any more or less correct or valid depending on their political or doctrinal position on an issue. I think we all do this to an extent whether or not we always recognize it.

But I've decided to try to experiment with shrugging off hesitations about opponents dismissing me or reading too much into certain perspectives based on my admissions of context or personal situation. Withholding information or context only gives them that much more supposed ammunition (usually blanks but loud enough to persuade the impressionable from daring to test whether they're blanks) with which to imply I'm hiding something, covertly undermining, or wearing some sort of mask. I don't like games of that sort. I don't care to play them. And let's be honest: sometimes, they might be right to question me from a particular angle, and I will never learn that if I'm not willing to risk being questioned or challenged.

I'm trying to be as up front as possible, to bring as much into the light as I have the emotional strength and need to do, without compromising confidentiality or implicating others. It feels right. I may learn the negative consequences of being or doing so, but hey, that's the risk of an experiment and the discomfort of growth, right?

What's that? This post doesn't make sense to you? Eh, I can't say I really expected it to. Just some mostly unfiltered thoughts I wrote as they came.

18 October 2010

Just like starting over

I'm just gonna say it: feeling like you're starting life over after 30 as an unemployed, formerly LDS nontheist-leaning agnostic single gay man with strong values and principles but without a community in which to share them with others or direct energies for service or dialog and who wants to have his own children but has no firm career direction or money with which to pay for further education...sucks.

Ha, there's more to me than those changes and situations in my life, but those sure feel like a lot right now. But seeking direction and maybe community of a new kind is...gonna be a journey. And I'm trying to take the first steps in that journey.

I feel progressively more hopeful, finally focusing. Stripped of the last shreds of what I though I had going for me, I am a lowly and broken man finding new confidence and feeling more open than ever...more ready to do whatever I need to do to build my life up.

Dating is not on my to-do list. I shut down my two dating profiles I set up out of curiosity a while back, and if I resurrect them, it won't be until I have my poop in a group. I figure I'm looking at a couple of years of singleness and building my life on my own before considering actively seeking someone else to mix into it. If I were to meet someone along the way, as I did this summer--but someone less conflicted this time--I might consider dating, but I have to be really cautious about that, I think. Even though I feel like I don't have a lot of time to waste if I hope to ever have a family, I'm increasingly OK with setting that worry aside and deciding that if I want to increase my chances of finding what I want, rather than a lifetime of what I've been doing, I need this time, I need the risk.

I've gotten out just to take photos a couple of times lately. It's nice to be seeking out beauty or stories. I sold my first print online the other day: an 11x14 of a photo I took in 2008 of the setting sun glaring slightly from behind the Salt Lake temple out-of-focus behind temple square flora. I don't have any more posted for sale. Doubt I will. That's the only one I sold in 3 months out of about 60. But it was still fun.

I've been job-hunting more lately, sending a few applications every week, mostly in the two metropolitan areas in which I can live without paying first month, last month, and safety deposit, because I can't afford more than month-to-month.

I attended a Unitarian Universalist service/lunch yesterday out of curiosity, something I used to make fun of: the church for people who don't want a church, the church with no doctrine, the pointless church. I get it now. A community to gather people who subscribe to principles and values and speak of faith without necessarily needing to attach set stories or theism, or at least without needing to impose them on others. I'd read about them online, but it was a new experience to be face-to-face with them, seeing the reality of it, comparing the community to the one I came from, aching about what it lacks and rejoicing over what it offers, comparing the philosophy of it: a refreshingly "open" and "see it from all angles" crowd with a predominant belief in a more self-determining theology I would have dismissed as a "conveniently hands-off God" ten years ago. When the lady I was chatting with dropped her plate of food, my old church-boy instincts kicked in, and I went to the kitchen and grabbed a broom and dustpan and paper towels. I was happy to help and to make sure she didn't endure undue embarrassment from cleaning up alone. The woman who gave the sermon asked later, "Did I see you sweeping earlier?" I said she probably had. She smiled and said enthusiastically, "Welcome to church!" I laughed tentatively. I was invited to attend again, to join the choir, to join the men's group, to check the newsletter for service activities. I may. But it's all so weird...to be even thinking about attending "services" or activities at the "non-church"...to be among mostly older people and very few single folks...to be going anywhere other than an LDS building without some ulterior reason for "having" to go.

I'm focusing on assessing my interests and looking into different fields of study or work. I've contacted three fairly distinct career counselors and face the task of choosing one, which I will do by tomorrow night after speaking with them briefly on the phone. I've never done therapy or counseling of any kind, so I don't know how this is supposed to go, whether I'll want to address anything besides career decisions, or how I'll pay for $80-150/hr (of course the one I'm most interested in working with, so far, is the expensive one), but I need something to change, and I hope this will help me focus and identify what my blocks are. If it does, it's well worth it.

So yeah, starting fresh at my age bites, but...it's better than doing nothing, never starting over, or going backwards. And whether it leads me by contrast back in the direction I used to be going or whether it opens my eyes, mind, and heart to new avenues, taking the steps feels right.

17 October 2010

Touch me healthily

Note: for the "short version", skip to the bolded paragraph of questions. That's what this post started with. It became a monster. Not my fault. It's just what my sometimes hyperactive brain does. I'm genetically programmed this way, and I wouldn't change it if there were a pill, so there.


OK, I have my fair share of thoughts on the theories of holding therapy or "healthy touch" as it relates to therapy of homosexuality (as opposed to "healthy touch" for victims of physical abuse or therapeutic holding for those with attachment disorders, for example, although I'd guess they're all related to theories of underlying developmental causes of homosexuality), as far as I understand it, which, I've found, is at least considerably more than the average skeptic, most of whom think it's totally nutty when they hear about it, so they don't bother to learn any more.


First of all, as far as I know, when done in the "correct" therapeutic way, "healthy touch" or "therapeutic holding" is done with clothing on, is done with at least one objective third party present and with full knowledge of any spouses, doesn't include laying down together in bed, is more about embracing than caressing, is just part of a larger, concerted whole effort to connect with and affirm one's own latent masculine identity, is supposed to include a sort of father-surrogate role for the holder, ideally a straight man (I've heard of a couple who have actually been willing to help a buddy out in that way), etc. It's not the same as cuddling with someone you feel affection for, even without the feelings of attraction by which most of us are motivated to cuddle with someone.


I've said before that I've had friends I trusted and had no attraction to with whom I've cuddled, or who have held me, or I them, in difficult times or just to express affection and trust. As I've had experiences where I've discovered not everyone is good at separating physical contact from sexual urges, I've backed away, but to be frank, I do miss having friends I can just rest my head on or snuggle up with to watch a movie. I do still have friends I can kinda do that with, but they're relatively few, and experience has brought caution, and I miss the broader innocence of what I saw as non-sexual affection, my own perception of healthy touch. I think the world could benefit a lot from more physical connection without always interweaving sexuality into it. There's something calming and reassuring about knowing you can literally lean on someone you trust and give or receive supportive affection without sexual tension or suspicion of motives. It could be a female friend or a guy friend, but there's something about it being a guy friend that's just more...comfortable...or comforting?

I know. Some of you are thinking "HELLO THAT'S BECAUSE YOU'RE GAY!" But I'm not sure that simple statement explains it, if what you're implying is I like it more because I fall for guys because some of the friends I've been affectionate with are those I've not been the least bit attracted to physically. It's been more of a brotherly thing. And yes, I've known a couple of guys who were affectionate with their brothers...though spooning was probably not part of that, let's be honest.


Reparatives might jump on this and say it makes total sense that I'd feel more secure and fulfilled cuddling with guys because it has to do with my underlying need for male attachment which wasn't met in "normal" ways, the same developmental hiccup which led to the sexualization of that need: homosexuality. And then I'm supposed to say, "Oh my gosh...that so makes sense! That's why I want non-sexual affection from guys I trust!"

But I can't help but wonder: do straight guys sometimes like to be close to female friends for whom they don't feel sexual attraction? What about if they're the kinda guy who doesn't think he's allowed to think about a girl sexually, let alone touch her? And assuming they're not all weird about homophobia, do they find the same kind of comfort in physical expressions of affection with guy friends, or is a nice cuddle with a female just...different? Female friends are more physically expressive with their affection towards each other. Is cuddling with a guy friend different for them even when they're not attracted?


And I've always speculated: what if you take a pent-up straight guy, tell him his strong sexual urges towards girls are based on unmet feminine connection, tell him he needs to surrender to his need for the love and affirmation of women when he's felt rejected by women his whole life, have him hold and be held by women, some not so attractive, some smokin' hot, tell him it's natural that he should get an erection but "what goes up must come down" but that his response will decrease as he gets used to the experience, and he needs to just experience the affirmative and supportive contact and let his defenses down and just take in the affirming energy this woman is giving him, breaking down into tears if necessary over the years of rejection and resentment? Would he experience great healing and confidence from this, not to mention demystifying and desexualizing physical contact with women? Wouldn't he experience a healthier sense of sexuality and diminished cravings for physical contact with women if he knew he was going to regularly have these intimate holding sessions with women which taught him to see them as people with whom to connect rather than as sexual objects?


I'm not saying "healthy touch" is useless: I'm just saying...I think it's more of a mindtrick or filler than therapy. The difference between me and most poopoo-ers of holding therapy is that I say, "Yeah, I don't think it's making anyone less gay, but if it's a tool that helps someone live more happily in his marriage or keeps a guy from tapping his foot in bathroom stalls or helps someone focus on finding a wife rather than dating guys, and his wife (if he has one) isn't threatened by it and supports him doing it, then why concern myself with it? Even if I don't believe it's doing what he thinks it's doing, and even if he keeps doing it his whole life rather than having the therapy just work and fulfill him, if it's helping him live happily with what he believes to be absolute truth, then why should he stop?"


Of course, those who've bought into it and believed the stories from its practitioners about it diminishing their homosexuality and/or developing their masculinity and heterosexuality and only to look back years later regretting they convinced themselves of something which wasn't true after all, might have just cause to raise caution to others they don't want to see waste their time like they did. And I've gotta be honest, it grosses me out to think someone I loved and saw myself potentially having a great relationship with might trade our companionship, affection, commitment, mutual improvement, and investment for a possible lifetime of what might be substitutional coping mechanisms, including holding therapy, just in order to live a heterosexuality-congruent lifestyle.

But hey, if a guy truly believes that a same-sex relationship is absolutely not an option for him, for personal or religious reasons, or he believes he has unmet needs which are fulfilled by holding and other therapy, and regular therapy and/or holding brings him greater peace in his marriage or search thereof and confidence as a current or prospective husband and father regardless of whether he's any more heterosexual overall than he used to be, then I have to set aside my dismay. I have to set aside the nagging thoughts, "But I would have fulfilled that for you along with all the love I could offer and a possible lifetime of joy together as productive partners and parents without the need for holding therapy if only you had been able to believe it was right."

And then there's the fact that I've always (well, in adulthood, at least) believed partners or spouses rarely if ever are or have been absolutely everything to each other anyway. To expect your spouse to fulfill every single one of your needs is unfair and unrealistic, I think. Men usually still need time with the guys. Women usually still need ladies' nights. Even in a gay partnership, I think I'd still want my guys' nights alone with buddies sometimes. There are emotional benefits to having various relationships of different kinds, and what one couple may find in each other, another must seek in good friendships to find their balance.

And yeah, it's "weird" for most of us to think of people "getting their needs met" through physical affection outside of their marriage. I think most women would not be OK with their husbands going to even chaperoned "holding nights" where they'd be essentially cuddling with other women, nor would husbands be keen on their wives going to a holding group with a bunch of men, but the comparison isn't direct, and the situation for a marriage involving at least one same-sex attracted spouse is unique. So isn't that really up to the couple and their own assessment of what will make their marriage successful? Who am I to question their own, personal, uniquely tailored pursuit of happiness?


As a method of increasing one's straightness, I think it's mostly bunk. As some sort of healing connection with one's own latent but damaged masculinity, I think it's mostly bunk. As a "safe" way of finding some affection and connection with trusted men without resorting to sex when a guy believes he is to refrain completely from any romantic or sexual involvement with other men, I think you should portray it as a sexual repression defuser or male affection session rather than trying to claim it's a straightening practice 'cause I know of just one part of you it's likely to straighten, and the rest...well...I can't presume to know any better than the guy who does it whether he's any less "gay", but let's just say I don't see a lot of guys finding their heterosexuality and leaving the holding therapy. I know several guys who have been to Journey Into Manhood weekends and recommend them who say they enjoy healthy touch and "feel better and more centered" after it but don't believe it has anything to do with making anyone straight.

But as a way to fulfill certain drives for affection or trust- and friendship-based intimacy in a safe way to reduce stress from sexual appetites or even tension around your self-perceptions and confidence, if it works for you, and it's done "correctly", and if your spouse--if you're married--supports it, I've gotta say I'm OK with it even if it does seem odd to people who don't agree with religious beliefs against homosexual relationships that anyone would "need" to do that rather than just pursuing a relationship which wholly fulfills that need. Religious conviction about the sinfulness of all same-sex relationships is powerful, and you're not going to just change someone's mind about that, so they're going to do whatever it takes, even things you think are "weird", to live within that context, and hey, if it's that or not finding ways to live within their self-imposed boundaries, why not let them do the best they know how?

As I said, even if it is a mind trick rather than actual therapy, a mind trick that helps you find temporary confidence and connection and reduced anxiety is probably better than living without anything to cope, right? Or would you rather they suffer in order to "recognize" what they're denying themselves of and date men, thereby validating your decision to do so or reducing the confusion of outsiders who don't understand that these men aren't really, truly straight, so they stop hounding you to do the same with statements like, "If only you tried like so-and-so does..." I think there are other ways of learning confidence, masculine identification (if that's necessary for mental health), interpersonal intimacy, and anxiety reduction more permanently, but gosh, until you've found those, I'm not comfortable telling anyone to refrain from doing...whatever works and doesn't harm anyone else.

Thoughts? Research? References?