28 January 2011

Heteros do it too (and what I really think about most therapy of homosexuality), Part 6 of 6

Back to Part 5...

All else being equal, I would like to marry a man and raise children with him. But as much as I'd like to believe future generations won't have to face the choices or prejudices I have or that the dynamics and aspects of a male-male partnership and parenthood were exactly the same as those of male-female pairings, all else is just not equal, due to religion, social dynamics, biology, and legal ramifications, to name a few. Maybe same-sex couples aren't the first to wonder if society would ever accept them, but until things change, it's going to remain a big deal.

I also understand, firsthand, the reality of facing an apparent choice or tension between fighting for what the future can potentially be and saving myself the stress by living the best I can within the current bounds. Perhaps not everyone had the tenacity, energy, personal fortitude, or vision to be among the first inter-ethnic couples before society figured out such relationships can work, that accompanying differences of perspective can be beautifully and ably navigated for the personal growth of both parties, and that children raised by such couples are more stressed because of society's lack of understanding and acceptance of the couples. Perhaps not everyone can or even should be a social pioneer. So I reiterate that if certain practices work to make a same-sex attracted man's future marriage to a woman possible or current marriage better, and that's the option someone wants to pursue, as long as they're being honest and open and not hurting anyone, I want to support them in seeking happiness.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Yes, I wonder whether gay guys experience being "in love" as intensely or in as soul-animating a way with women as with guys (in at least 98.702% of cases, which statistic is great for those who find the right woman but not great for the rest), and I do think there are probably inherent, very personal and unique difficulties built into mixed-orientation marriages on top of the usual issues. But the more I expound on these ideas, the more I think it may sound like I'm saying my mixed-sex-married gay/SSA friends are living a lie for religious or social convenience, which is not what I mean to say. When it comes to people I know and love, I'm not comfortable making that assertion for their very personal, very sacred relationships. Let me be clear: I do not think my married friends are secretly unhappy or unfulfilled or fooling themselves about truly loving their spouses, I don't think their decision to marry a straight spouse is an inherently selfish decision, and I fully respect the straight spouse's right to choose. I believe that even the inherent additional challenges are often mitigated, if they've approached the marriage wisely, by an unusual level of communication and openness going into the marriage.

So I have this dilemma: I support and am happy for my friends who are married and having children as I've always dreamed of doing, and I believe they are genuinely happy, yet I believe that in most cases, were it not for religious and social paradigms which will likely change over hundreds of years, they would have chosen to be with someone of their same sex, but things haven't changed, or they do believe it's not allowed, or they did want biological children with a spouse of the opposite sex, so they had to act within their belief, and even if they wouldn't have chosen their spouse if same-sex relationships were an option, that doesn't detract from the fact that they're glad they did, and they wouldn't trade what they have for anything, and their spouses feel the same way...

I do think they're not "straight" or even, in any cases I personally know, truly 'bisexual', but since their sexual energy is now directed exclusively at their spouse of the opposite sex, and their thought processes on sexuality are far healthier than they used to be, I respect their right to reject labels which would downplay or distract from that focused love and whole-hearted dedication. I even think they are often more self-accepting than ever, which is something I think most anti-reparative people don't even recognize, let alone understand.

I fully hope for the success of my mixed-orientation married friends. In the cases of friends whose marriages are in challenging or rocky positions, especially where they have children, I fully hope they'll be able to work things out and have confidence that they can, in most cases, if they work at it and find the right ideas and support systems. Heteros have to weather tough times, too. The idea of having a wife of 6 years and two or three kids sounds pretty nice sometimes compared to facing a possible life of bachelorhood, I gotta be honest. So to my happily married friends, I say you have a beautiful, wonderful thing, and it may well be far better than anything you would have had either alone or with another man (or woman), and I hope it always remains so.

Marriage aside, though I think reparative theory is mostly bollocks, I still support my friends in doing what they believe works for their happiness, and I think some of the methods and practices can be very useful to many people in helping them identify and improve communication, cognition, and relationship skills and tools, in order to function as they wish to. I also think there are other ways to learn the same valuable lessons without the money, or the emotional baggage of theories of which I'm very skeptical, or the substitutes for cuddling explained as healing touch, or contrived "masculinity" (incidentally, some of my favorite decidedly hetero, self-assured, intelligent, and engaging friends are lacking popularly 'masculine' traits and don't seem bothered by it).

Did I think he was the smartest person I'd ever met? Nope. The most physically attractive? Nope. The funniest? Bah. The most accomplished? Who're we kidding? The most popular, athletic, confident, kind, refined, world-wise, happiest, or most creative and artistic? None of the above in the superlative, not even while I was the most emotionally invested, but all of the above to some degree or another in a combination I considered myself completely fortunate to find, and more than I felt I could ask for. He was (and, I imagine, very much is, in the most important ways) a great guy. I loved him because of who he was, even if a touch idealized, like heteros do.

But here's the real kicker, which probably requires more explanation than I have time to give right now (I know, why stop now, right?): I still consider, from time to time, going through reparative therapy or Journey Into Manhood. It's not because I actually think the theories are sound, it's not just to quell the "he hasn't even tried it himself" arguments (especially since I'd have to try 100% for at least 3 years to be considered a valid effort), and it's not just in case that whole eternal marriage thing is true. It's because if it could at least work to bring myself to a place where I'm more ready to consider or open to a heterosexual relationship, maybe it's worth wading through the muck to find the truths if it will open me up to more opportunities for happiness.

I don't know who else besides reparative types are willing to help a gay guy prepare for the challenges and dynamics of a relationship with a woman should that option become available and desirable. After all, if I can have a life without the social conflicts, denied rights, and inability to reproduce currently attached to same-sex pairings, maybe it's worth exploring the theories firsthand, giving them a real chance, and seeing if they apply more to my life than I ever realized while analyzing them from a bit of distance. Or maybe I just feel that broken, with nothing to lose...is that how they get us? Well, shoot...maybe I'm more free to 'be gotten', having gotten all of this off of my chest. Or maybe I have finally understood "desperation". Maybe I'm tired of defending myself and others and just want to quietly live my happy life...like heteros do...



Bravone said...

I've severely limited my blog reading time, but valuing you as a friend and appreciating your thought process, I've enjoyed reading this series. I do appreciate that you support me in my marriage.

Having attended JIM, I don't feel any less "gay" than when I went. The part I enjoyed most was learning more about core human needs, emotions, counter emotions and how they all play into how I interpret my reality. I probably could have learned them somewhere else, but I truly enjoyed the experience. It isn't all about blaming someone or proving a lack of anything during the developmental years. The program is amazingly set up so one can take what "truths" he believes applies to him and apply those to bettering himself. Some ideas presented didn't pertain to me, and that was fine. It didn't diminish the experience as a whole.

The whole "healthy touch" or whatever you call it can be helpful to some, but I haven't felt the need to do it since JIM. Maybe sometime I might, but for me the experience was one of self exploration, and introspection. I also learned to let go of shame I have carried around for years for certain thoughts and behaviors. It was a healing experience for me.

It was interesting that we had a straight guy in our group that came away having learned many of the same lessons.

Whatever it takes for you, I really pray for the day that you find the happiness you seek. I believe you will.

Original Mohomie said...

Bravone, thanks. I do feel happy, notwithstanding my recent relapse into woe. Ha!

And yes, I do support you and my other friends in happy, healthy marriages, and I hope my friends struggling in their marriages work it out because keeping families together is the ideal solution in my mind. For those who decide on something else, I hope they make the best of it, and all parties find what they need as well.

Most of my friends talk about how good the experience was and how they don't feel any less gay than before they went, though they report feeling more comfortable with and accepting of themselves, which is a great outcome!

And I would have much less beef with JIM if they advertised themselves the way you describe it: to find self-acceptance, to identify and learn to meet core needs, etc. I've always said I have no doubt I'd find plenty to enjoy about and learn from the experience, myself. I might have gone if I hadn't been told by the founder that my 'SSA' must be 'unwanted' for it to be effective and kept talking about how he's completely heterosexual now.

I knew my friends had said that to them, it wasn't about changing from gay to straight (and good thing because none have), and I knew that they learned a lot from it, but I have this thing about respecting what things are supposed to be.

I know some people will go to the temple 'unworthily' or without believing in its divine origins because they see it as something different from what the church declares it to be and like the feeling they get there, but I don't share that perspective. I think that in order to respect the 'process' of those who believe the claims, I best stay away and let them have their experience.

My problem is with how the whole thing is packaged, if it's not really about changing to heterosexual.

Consider the following phrases from the JIM web site:

* "...designed specifically for men who are self-motivated and serious about resolving unwanted homosexual attractions."

If you press the founders, this might be qualified with some fancy dancing about what it means to "resolve" the attractions and that "resolution" means different things to different people. How interesting that this kind of qualifier is not used in the pitch. And let's be honest, how will it be read by 95% of those who read it?

* "4 out of 5 participants report reduction in SSA."

Again, when pressed, they might explain that a reduction in same-sex attractions doesn't necessarily mean a change to heterosexual, so their claim is accurate and honest. But it's obviously designed to imply conversion.

* "All of the exercises are designed to help you identify and process the underlying issues that may be alienating you from your authentic heterosexual masculinity..." (emphasis added)

There's no way around the implications of this one. The program is designed to bring about heterosexuality by removing the roadblocks preventing you from reaching it. However they might attempt to explain the qualifying adjectives, to the average reader, this sentence clearly states: Authentic masculinity = heterosexual.

However many times they say "change means different things for different people" or however many of my friends insist JIM isn't about turning you straight, the marketing hook is clear and carries a powerful emotional appeal.

I understand it's still a beneficial activity for many or most who go. Ha, that's why I've even told a couple of people they might want to consider going if they have the money and interest.