28 February 2011

The truth about mormons...and heterosexuals...

I know some very vocal ex-mormons who speak at conferences to reveal the "truth" about Mormons, the seedy underbelly and corruption in Mormon culture behind the fluffy, feel-good masks of family-centrism and values-based living. They explain the dishonesty of the members, the hypocrisy rampant in leadership, the child abuse, the spouse abuse, the consumerism, the addiction to antidepressants, the truth about their beliefs which they don't publicly acknowledge because they know how outlandish they are. Yes, the truth about Mormons can only be revealed by one who has left that lifestyle and can be corroborated both by Mormon neighbors we've all heard complain about those very issues in their own culture and by their own leaders who reveal their underlying bigotry and lust for control over their disciples: it's so clearly confirmed that there's no denying the ex-mormons are on to something.

I have a few straight friends. Yes, I do. No, seriously. And some of them have told me the truth about straight people. They are thoroughly convinced that marriage is a ruse, a farce, a joke and can testify why from their own experience. Sure, they might acknowledge possible exceptions, but those are just better at fooling themselves. They talk about their past affairs and swinger parties with leaders and members of conservative and sexually puritanical churches and the testament that is to the falseness of their supposed values, are absolutely convinced that everyone is a total sexual freak and some just won't admit it and that everyone watches porn and masturbates daily whether they admit it or not, and they can tell you the "truth" about people based on their experience in a sex industry.

Yeah, you see my point yet? Why does anyone buy so very thoroughly into occasional accounts from "ex-gays" who loudly proclaim the "truth" they've uncovered about "the gay lifestyle" based on their experience cruising gay dating sites, or a couple of gay relationships, or twenty years as a prostitute and porn star, and think that story is somehow "the truth" because they've heard hints of similar complaints even from gay people themselves? And especially without really examining their credibility/sanity and checking the facts as they would anyone else criticizing a society or culture they are fond of? Come on, people!

25 February 2011

Change of heart

This post is mostly not about recent BYU drama, but it was sparked by thoughts related to it. As I read a post about gay BYU students being "transferred" to UVU, I thought, "Well, if that's true, and BYU is somehow cleansing itself, strapping on a pair, or somehow trying to show integrity in holding students accountable, then I expect to see a cleansing of the football team, too."

Don't get me wrong: I'm sure there are great guys on the football team, and I'd probably be tired of people singling them out if I were one of them, but I've known enough people, over the course of several years, who have reported abundant alcohol abuse and sexual promiscuity, not to mention dishonest academic practices, among specifically the football players that I'm pretty confident they can take on the theater department in a contest of transgression. I await the transfers of the football players by popular demand of the righteous masses and indignant administration. You know, for integrity's sake.

Then I thought maybe the conservative football players are extremely penitent every time they intoxicate themselves or penetrate a daughter of God, whereas the theater gays are brashly defiant and stubbornly liberal, and that's where the difference is. Truth be told, I've only heard from one first-person source about the theater department cleansing, so I don't even know the details, and this might all be conjecture, but let's just say it fits church culture perfectly.

And that brings me to my point: the popular LDS notion that it's "what's in his heart" that matters. Even those who seem to recognize a dissonance of sorts and express a sort of sympathetic, "Yeah, I can see where you're coming from," seem more patient with the constantly, repeatedly 'penitent' sinner than with the person who commits the same sins far less frequently but doesn't share the belief in the gravity of the sin, if they even believe it's a sin at all, because one is at least "trying" and "has his heart in the right place."

At least, that's how I used to think, even though I didn't fully realize that's how I thought at the time. The frustrating part is how thoroughly I understand the point of view I'm describing because it was mine. I know not every LDS person shares it, but I know many--maybe even most--do. In a way, it's completely understandable: if what matters is one's 'heart', or one's 'faith' in certain beliefs or deity, and if there's an 'atonement' which washes away sin, then certainly the point when you stop making it effective in your life is the point you have 'given up', and to over-abuse it is better than to waste it or ignore it...or something like that. Besides, without Christ, you are nothing, and we're supposed to forgive until seventy times seven, so...under those assumptions, it just makes sense to be more patient with the constant but penitent sinner...or does it? Not in my book.

"Trying". The word hypocrites bank on. The word which ignores the damage done and runs away from consequences because they have to keep their eye single...until the next time. Seriously, folks, if you're committing the same 'sin' over and over, at some point I think you have to acknowledge that your 'heart' is not, in fact, "in the right place," and that you are no more 'righteous' than any other common sinner who is not acting against their professed beliefs. You HAVE to, if you have a shred of integrity.

I submit that to be happy, you must stop destroying your integrity more and more each time you 'slip up' by pretending you're not going to do it again but not really changing anything, and that this pattern is absolutely, completely no better than the unrepentant sinner who doesn't believe what they're doing is wrong. I submit that to be happier, whether we're talking about 'sin' or 'bad habits' or 'changes you want to make in your life', we each must:
  • A) admit that you don't really believe what you're doing is wrong or harmful to anyone including yourself (and admit that your secrecy is an attempt to save face by living what you want while wearing a facade to deceive others--yes, to deceive, not to avoid drama, not because it's none of their business, but to deceive), and either recognize that the drive to change is not due to a true problem in your life but to external pressures or demands you don't actually believe are right or true for whatever reason (whether or not others seem to think you "should"), or
  • B) stop making excuses and exonerating yourself based on your 'heart', stop pretending you should get some kind of free pass because of your 'intent' no matter how many pandering authorities are letting you off the hook because they need to validate themselves or need something from you or don't want to believe you could be as imperfect as you are, recognize that your integrity depends on bringing your actions and beliefs or goals into alignment, recognize your behavior is harmful and find out why to integrate beliefs and understanding that will actually foster and motivate change, be kind to yourself when you do fall short (as we all do, especially when striving for something beyond "normal" or "average"), and do something (break cycles, ask for help and accountability, whatever is required) to truly avoid repeating the error, if it is one.
I say this to myself as well as to my readers because as I have implemented these perspectives in my life, I've been happier with myself and more at peace with myself and with others. I've been kinder, more patient, more humble, more longsuffering, and more receptive to truth by gradually letting go of the fear of being wrong and what implications that may bring to my life. Aside from clearly not being a paragon of achieved human potential, I'm not perfect at even this idea I'm preaching by any means, but I believe it to be a simple but impacting truth. I still have goals and desires for myself that I want but don't always diligently work towards. In addition to clearly disappointing many people around me in certain ways, I sometimes fall short of my own expectations, as I always have. But increasing levels of honesty with myself have helped me recognize that sometimes, my failure to "change" has been because I'm just not convinced I need to, not yet, not completely, or not at all, and I'm learning to own it.

Sometimes, I haven't realized a need for change until someone explained how my actions or attitudes have affected them personally, which they might not know to do unless I admitted I didn't see a need to change. Since I care about harming others, I've had the opportunity to respond, though is is harder some times than others, or understanding the 'why' has been a challenge, and admitting that rather than sweeping it all under the rug can be difficult because I might look clueless or might have to change. Sometimes, I do want to change and have received a quiet nudge or a slap in the face to wake me up to a need to break patterns and cycles, and I've made another step towards progress until the next "lesson learned". Other times, I recognize that I do want to change, but I admit I have bigger fish to fry, and I have priorities, and they may not be the same as someone else's.

But the point is to improve. To really try. To strive for better today than yesterday in some way. There will be backslides, sidetracks, colossal mistakes, putting things on the back burner, and moments where you feel some things never seem to change. There will also be triumphs, joys, leaps forward, picking up again where you left off, and moments where you read a journal entry from twelve years ago and realize, "Wow, have I really come that far in that regard?"

I just don't buy this "his heart is in the right place" business. Isn't that what "change of heart" is all about? Whether you believe a "change of heart" is a spiritual manifestation of the goodness of God in purifying and aligning your will through the atonement of his son or an otherwise originated epiphany of clarity, resolution, and recognition of your own capability and motivation to live in a way that will be meaningful and leave an impact, I think we all have to, at some point, stop fooling ourselves with comforting masks or accountability-erasing balm because truth--or God, if you prefer--is not gullible. While mercy or ignorance may clean the slate of accountability for each of us, integrity--happiness--demands something internal, something nobody can force upon us, and something no amount of "acting like everything is fine" will ever bring about: a change of heart, and steps to truly align our actions with our beliefs, whether that means admitting our beliefs and priority of values don't match those of others or acknowledging that our actions are not excusable and do need to change to some degree, or both.

Man up, men, and let's all try a little harder to stand and be counted as we are, unafraid, in the light, accountable, courageous, honest about our beliefs and fears and hopes. It's scary, it's hard, it's vulnerable, it's likely to upset someone, and none of us is perfect at it or ever will be...but it's productive, it's ennobling and empowering to ourselves and to others, it fosters truth-finding, it promotes understanding and intimacy in ways secrecy never will, and...OK, actually, I'm just trying to get you all to admit your dirt, so we can have a big ol' gossip fest and point and laugh at the weirdos and scorn the filthy sinners.

Ha, is that what some are afraid of? Probably with good reason. Scary stuff, being exposed by admitting either your beliefs or actions are not what you've let everyone, including yourself, think they are, and letting that be the start of a true, lasting "change of heart" (you can't truly fix something you won't even admit is broken). Is there a limit or balance to how open you should be about such things? Probably...but I'm gonna go out on a limb and say most people could take several steps towards openness, ownership, and integrity (integrating rather than compartmentalizing their lives and actions and beliefs) and would find themselves happier for having done so. Take it or leave it, but don't expect me to shut up about it. :-)

24 February 2011

Your mom's Wii

I laugh at the occasional "your mom" joke (I've typically found most of them pretty distasteful or disrespectful, but some of them are good-natured), and I appreciate some clever or downright saucy Wii references and innuendo. But my mom owns a Wii, which was borrowed tonight by a friend, and when my brain "goes there" and--seemingly against my own will--combines a "your mom" joke with a "Wii" reference in relation to my friends, the awkwardness makes me want to curl into a ball and rock myself with eyes tightly shut while repeating some comforting phrase over and over, and all things innuendoish are not my friends until I'm able to recover. And if you know my propensity for innuendo, you know that's saying something.

Maybe it's disrespectful of me to even mention it, but...I think my point in bringing it up is that while I don't believe there's generally any truly productive reason to broadcast "ew"-inducing thoughts, pretending they don't exist or keeping them a secret not only gives them power but also leaves good people thinking they're sick and twisted and shameful for having them on occasion. I've had what I think have been productive and healthy discussions with people whom you might never suspect of having thought or done certain things, who thought they were the only ones until we laughed about it together and shrugged at human oddity. I've been surprised to see how relieved they seem when they find out someone else who's not a crazy or a total deviant relates, and we can acknowledge it without giving it any prominence or glorifying it, and it almost paradoxically dissolves its influence or power.

Of course, maybe I am sick and twisted, but at least I shake such thoughts off and say to my brain, "Whoa! Ew! Not funny, just wrong!" Then I make the necessary "blblblblblblblechblechblech" noise. Sometimes I wish Family Guy and South Park writers would tell themselves that. No such luck. My opinion of those shows, you ask? My response: "Hated it!".

OK, so I've laughed at Family Guy a couple of times.

I'm so glad I have this intimate, judgment-free forum in which to make such odd confessions. Thank you for 'listening'. I will have to balance this with some constructive, uplifting, meaningful post. ...Sometime. Not now. I'm more in the mood for something brainless to help me unwind, like playing with my Wii...

18 February 2011

Do all the real men go for women?

I sometimes wonder if the emotionally healthiest gay guys (or the ones whose perspectives best align with my ideals about relationships) most recognize (or believe) that much or most of what really matters in a relationship can be found in a relationship with a woman and are consequently inclined to seek it with a woman for social and/or religious reasons. Maybe they believe it to be genuinely not selfish if it's done openly because everyone brings baggage and emotional reservations to a relationship, and if a woman is willing to take this challenge on, they're both making sacrifices for a relationship they believe in and want, and to refuse to allow her to choose that is to demean her ability to decide what's best for her. Maybe the concern about not being able to return certain vulnerabilities and kinds of passion or investment is inconsequential, and every pairing is uneven in some way, so getting caught up in that is a cop-out when you can have open communication, emotional connection, and deliberate investment, which are what a lasting relationship is built on.

Maybe this is all correct, and only those with the emotionally healthiest perspective on relationships or who have the most mature outlook--the 'real men'--realize it, and therefore very few of the healthiest gay men end up on the market for other men, so those men who are left seeking same-sex companionship mostly include those who don't understand or grasp it, compounding the problems of relationships in popular gay culture. I mean no offense to those of you in great same-sex relationships. I'm just wondering if you're the exceptions rather than anything even remotely like the rule, not because same-sex-attracted men are inherently worse at relationships than opposite-sex-attracted men, and not just because of self-perpetuating unhealthiness in aspects of popular gay culture or society's official rejection of same-sex partnership commitment, but because gay men who see beyond dogmatic homosexuality or who can't stop wanting certain things for their lives see, in all probability, significant trade-offs no matter what they choose.

Some such guys might fully recognize and accept that, all else being equal, they'd rather be with a man, but they also believe all else is not equal socially, religiously, eternally, culturally, personally, or biologically, so all things considered, they might just as well take on the specific challenges and sacrifices of a mixed-sex relationship as take on the specific challenges and sacrifices and social or legal limitations of a same-sex relationship. ...Or maybe I'm only projecting my own skepticism.

I wonder if the men who most easily pass for straight are most likely to try to pass for straight. Maybe for a more "effeminate" guy, he's not going to fool anyone, so he will likely always deal with whispers of his probable homosexuality and people telling him to be himself. He might fear his sons, if he has any, will have a girly-man for a dad. He might have to "act" more "masculine" to play the role most women want. But for the already-"masculine" gay man, the one who enjoys sports and can fix a car, or the one who most people don't suspect until they find out he's only seriously dated one or two girls in his thirty years of life, playing the part of a typical, standard husband might seem more natural in certain ways than it would to the man with fewer traits generally regarded as belonging to masculinity.

I wonder if the guys I would be most attracted to and who want what I want are the least likely to be available to me because they're busy keeping everyone clueless that they're even gay by dating and marrying women because it just makes social sense to take the path of less resistance. Jerks.

But it's natural. Most of us don't exactly relish the idea of being social crusaders or living against the grain if we don't have to. Most of us don't really critically examine our beliefs until they're challenged thoroughly, or other beliefs seem not only more plausible but emotionally fulfilling. Most of us don't question roles and systems until something about them really doesn't fit or stops working. I certainly don't claim to be the most traditionally 'masculine' of men, nor the most understanding of relationships or women, but sometimes I wonder if I'd rather just give up on pioneering paths for the sake of intellectual integrity or making reality of conceptions and rejoin the trodden trails of normality...

17 February 2011

Why I love Diana Krall

While listening to a playlist tonight (the one on my blog, actually), Diana Krall's A Case of You (originally by Joni Mitchell) played (I can't embed it, but the linked video of a live performance is so great), and I realized I didn't used to like that song (I thought it was boring) but now really like it and what it evokes.

So guess what I've spent the last hour or so doing? Yep, YouTubing Diana Krall music videos to review all of the reasons I fell in love with her music and how many of her songs "speak to me".  Ah, good times.

And while exploring, I ran across this, which just plain made me smile. I love Nancy Wilson's signature style in this song, and Bill Cosby's antics, and the infectious jazz spirit which won me over years ago in my small hometown with a world-class jazz festival, which happens to be where I first heard and fell for Diana Krall when she sang "Peel Me a Grape" with all the saucy sass I could hope to find...y'know, in a woman:

16 February 2011

Snowy security

Tonight, the flurries of snow reminded me of an experience I had last December while looking out the window of the gym I work out in and about which I think I started a post but never finished it.

As I felt the magic of watching the snow fall onto frosted trees outside the window, I wondered at how it didn't carry the sting of watching alone, from a smelly gym, without 'someone special' and without a home in which I felt completely, totally secure and in my own element, where everything was just right in the world. I realized then that my happy memories filled whatever void I thought should probably be there. I remembered feeling, when I was a child, like all was right and safe and secure in the world because I was home, wrapped in a blanket, with my family, my cat, hot cocoa with sourdough toast, and a crackling fire as the snow swirled beautifully outside. I remembered feeling, as an adult, wholly at peace and at home in the most profound sense with my arms wrapped around someone special whose breathing felt like an extension of me and an affirmation that I was meant to and able to share life as we kept each other warm against the elements.

Rather than missing those days when I felt those things, the memory of them glowed within me, and I smiled at the richness and comfort they brought which I have forgotten or rejected at times. I wished everyone could have such memories but figured many people don't, and I was warmly grateful to have them to cherish and to provide hope for future memories rather than sorrowful that new ones were not presently being created. To lament not having someone special to bundle up with now or no longer being a wide-eyed child in a simpler world seemed petty and ungrateful, and for that moment, I was again a wide-eyed child who had known his fair share of love and warmth.

That perspective will not always be easy to maintain, but when it comes, it's worth remembering.

12 February 2011

Sacred, not secret, union

I've been thinking a bit, lately, about the reality of marrying or committing myself for life to a man I love someday. If I ever do find such a man, or even if I find such a woman, I intend to hold such a commitment (whether called 'marriage' or 'union') sacred and meaningful, and I have been thinking I may have to make some difficult decisions. I may decide to purify the experience and avoid sullying it by inviting, to the ceremony, only those who would be fully, truly supportive. Then we could have a reception for everyone, including those who couldn't wholeheartedly support whatever ceremony represents our union but who want to wish us well.

I might not allow the presence of those who do not hold sacred the covenants I make and the relationship into which I enter. I would do this not because I don't love them and not because they don't care but because some people just don't or won't understand the magnitude and sacredness the relationship holds for me. Some people would not fully grasp what it means or what it's about. They wouldn't relate to or appreciate the reality of it. They won't fully understand the motivations behind my choice to get married in that way. I wish they all did. I wish they could all understand and see what I've seen. But they won't, and that's their choice or belief, and it doesn't change or diminish what it means to me. They may be upset that they can't come, and they may not understand why I would exclude them when they are happy that I have companionship but just don't understand its full meaning. But it's not about them. It's about us. It's about our commitment to each other and to truth. They'll have to deal with it.

On one hand, I love the idea of having an open, public wedding to which all are invited, to contrast it with the exclusivity of LDS temple marriage, into which only active, temple-recommend-holding members of the church are allowed. I may never see many of my dear friends married because I no longer believe the ceremony is exactly what they believe it is, even though I know I would--if allowed to be present--lovingly and happily look on them as they make their covenants with moist eyes and be grateful to respectfully share that moment. But there are reasons for the exclusivity which I fully understand in ways someone who has never believed in the magnitude and the sacred and eternal nature of temple covenants might not fully relate to.

In fact, maybe it's not so different. I still believe my marriage or union, if I ever enter into one with either a man or a woman, will not be about any social approbation, grand parties, attention, or even 'rights' (though I'd want my partner and I to have legal protection and decision-making rights for each other)...and it's not even primarily about unifying or linking families. My commitment to another soul in union is about the unification of the two of us, committing our lives to each other and promising that we won't bolt when it gets tough, we will draw closer and remain one even when the fun wanes or other options come along, and we'll form a union within which we become financially and personally 'one' and lay a stable foundation for a future family if we're able to bring children into our home. That is too sacred a commitment to invite the presence of those who don't understand or believe in it.

So I may insist on a very private, very limited ceremony if it ever comes to that. If that means it's only my partner and me, then so be it. It's not about anyone else to begin with. I've always thought things were almost more sacred by being more private, so it's kind of a beautiful thought to commit to each other without spectacle or demonstration.

Then, after the most important business of unifying ourselves, we can symbolically unify other aspects of our lives by bringing together families and friends in a fabulous reception with lots of good food, good music, and happy memories in the making.

Ha, or I could just be a single old codger with a few short-term relationships along the way. That's probably more likely. *wink*

11 February 2011

Music lessons

'Technically accurate' is not necessarily moving or life-changing. The soul of a piece is in the living responsiveness between music and musician. A piece can be played technically perfectly with or without soul, but I think music more often comes alive when the dynamics and tempo are an extension of the unification of musician and instrument, breathing together, rather than repetition of fixed writing on a page.

Sometimes, you have to focus on the mechanics and technicalities, and the result is moving not because it moved you but because others were moved by the power of the product of your focus, and the satisfaction of seeing they've experienced something is rewarding. Sometimes, to fully impact others, you have to lose yourself in the process and stop focusing on your own experience.

There is energy in a well-played pause. There's incredible beauty and ecstasy in the tension created by well-placed pauses and contrasting dynamics, much more so than if you just steadily crescendo, increasing volume and speed until climax. It's often in those pauses, tension, or restraint--especially when combined with almost frighteningly on-the-verge-of-losing-control intensity--that you tune into each note or chord along the way and find a more complete, resonant whole.

It's not like riding a bike: it takes increasing discipline to keep it alive. Performing the same piece over and over requires constant attention to rhythm and dynamics, playing it every time like it's the first and last performance you will ever give.

There's something to be savored in the minor chords and dissonance. Something ultimately uplifting in the evocation of hidden, resonant tones longing for release, and in the way the very existence of the minor often seems to be exactly what makes the major worthwhile.

There are times to set aside the exacting techniques you've learned are required. There are some pieces which demand different styles than the specific, formal techniques in order to be performed correctly or with any impact. In some cases, the correct technique is to purposefully defy certain rules. For example, African choral music never sounds right when performed by BYU choirs; they don't seem to understand this.

Sometimes, if you just listen carefully and tune your ears to the music around you, you ultimately play better. When you rejoin the chorus with more focus on harmony, you blend for a richer, more beautiful sound. You can't make anyone else do this. It's up to each person.

By quieting yourself entirely and only listening, letting the music resonate and fill you, or playing something which feels like a release of what you're feeling, thoughts quiet into pure feeling, which can be instructive, releasing, and healing.

There are probably more, but I was just thinking about how many of the principles I learned in piano playing and in jazz choir performance apply to various aspects of life in general. True principles are all around us. A joy of life is learning how and where to apply them in daily life.

08 February 2011

A door closed, but...

...windows are opened.

Reconnecting with an old friend. Allowing myself to be vulnerable to someone whom I had pushed away and remembering that we are, in fact, good friends, even if not perfectly so (who is?).

Knowing that it's possible to be over someone, even if it's taken a couple of years.

Letting go of hatred and resentment for whatever has possessed someone I more recently loved and wishing him well as we both move on.

Meeting people who spark a tentative hope that perhaps there are, after all, other viable options. And feeling sparks of chemistry and potential compatibility I'm not yet ready to trust or act on but am glad I can smirk about as I shake my head while exploring it tentatively and considering the possibility of being a fool all over again sooner or later.

Feeling strength in convictions and clarity of thought. Feeling motivated in personal goals and looking forward to upcoming endeavors and personal and social plans. Feeling optimistic, even if somewhat tentatively, about most aspects of life.

Feeling peace, hope, love, longsuffering, renewed strength, light, patience...in my religious days, I would have described this as feeling "very blessed" or "buoyed by the Spirit". Naturally, some of it is coming off of a week of physical illness and an emotionally hard weekend and feeling 'better'. But whatever the semantics or explanations, it's nice.

Being The Adulterous Homewrecker

I've had a few people say they just can't make sense of how somebody can cut off all contact with someone they supposedly cared so much about. I've had a couple of friends also experience this in different ways or situations, as individuals who have been very torn and confused about what they wanted and believed have shut out all contact with formerly trusted "SSA" friends, even changing their phone number, etc. Obviously, I've had my own very painful experience with this kind of thing, and the few people I've personally spoken with about it have been surprised at the coldness with which I was treated. I think there are some things going on in the heads of people who behave this way that merit mention and examination.

The one demanding distance may believe it's about respect rather than coldness, or assertion and clarity rather than detachment and cruelty, righteousness rather than insecurity. The effect isn't always the intent, whether or not the intent is a mask.

The person demanding space may even recognize that ideally they should be strong enough to just deal with everything but have recognized they're not there yet. I know that when I needed space, I was damn well aware that it was most likely defensive and called my friends from whom I was requesting distance to let them know that I knew I cared about them even if my defensive feelings and self-preserving detachment wasn't allowing me to "feel" it in the moment. I told them I knew it wasn't necessarily rational but that I felt a lot of anger towards them and couldn't deal with everything I was feeling. I told them I assumed it would eventually pass, but for now, it was all too much for me to handle, and I needed space. I needed to not be constantly reminded of the differences between my beliefs and those of so many of my friends and family or connected to those who were also connected to [him]. I also wanted to leave the picture, so they'd not feel obligated to be 'loyal' to one or the other of us and so I wouldn't be constantly tempted to ask about [him]. I thanked them for their sympathy and said goodbye for now and that it probably was not permanent. Though that may offer little comfort to those who are being pushed away, I wanted them to know what was going on in me rather than filling in the blanks on their own and jumping to unnecessary conclusions.

But I believe most in the situation of guys shutting out gay associations as if they are communist conspirators in the fifties have another component. I believe the following comparison is wrong and inaccurate in the sense that I think the situations are erroneously thought of as being of the same kind, but I think it's descriptive of some people's perspectives. In the mind of many, the 'SSA' guy who is committing to a heterosexual lifestyle and who cuts off contact with a guy he dated, or friends he hung out with, before making that commitment is like the adulterer who, in a difficult time in his marriage, found comfort and connection with another woman, developed a friendship with her, and committed adultery, and is cutting off contact with her to save his marriage. However purely their interest in each other may have started, it became a temptation and distraction from what he truly needed to focus 100% of his energy on: saving his marriage. And to cut off contact is a noble sign of true, manly dedication to his true purpose. Ideally, maybe they should be able to talk things through and have some closure, but in reality, he cannot afford to think of or talk to her if he is to repair his marriage and keep his family intact because it risks opening wounds he can't afford to treat right now and must limp on or risk being overtaken and destroying all the work he's done. For the adulterous homewrecker to reach out to him for any reason would, therefore, be inappropriate and would only be proof that she prioritizes her own desires or needs over his welfare. Otherwise, she would just never speak to him again out of respect for what's best for him and would let him rebuild his life.

The reason this would be a false parallel in my case is that:
  • there was no commitment he was betraying by dating me (baptismal or temple covenants don't count any more than someone's commitment to Catholicism should prevent them from becoming LDS if they convert, or a politician's commitment to a party should prevent them from crossing the aisle),
  • I didn't tempt him away from something he was committed to,
  • there were no spouse's or children's lives to affect,
  • don't even get me started on the whole 'proof she never really loved him' thing (I'll post sometime about what a crock that is: I've heard Evergreen speakers try to claim same-sex relationships are inherently and unavoidably selfish because they prevent those involved from finding true happiness...blatantly circular logic),
  • I never intended to persuade him away from his path and know many who are on it who maintain friendship with me,
  • I had no reason to believe my contacting him would be destructive to anyone's progress, much less create jealousy or friction in a relationship,
  • etc.

Still, I think some people irrationally or casually equate the situations when they're trying to commit to a path which requires great sacrifice to both inject it with meaning and prevent any second-guessing. They cut off friendships which don't fully and completely keep their mind free of any temptation to believe anything other than what they think they should believe. The idea is that you are, at all costs, purifying your life and eliminating influences which would distract you from what you really want and believe to be true. Of course, the tragedy is that these tactics are required of all kinds of charlatans regardless of correctness, but once a particular method or path is determined to be "right", its pursuit justifies and requires obsessively singular focus.

In the rare instance where the cause actually is just and right, perhaps such tactics are justified and defensible by their ends. After all, a recovering alcoholic can't afford to chum around with old drinking buddies or go anywhere near a bar. She has a weakness which means she must be stricter or more severe than the average person would have to be regarding anything related to alcohol consumption. She must turn away from all things which trigger the temptation to drink, and anyone who doesn't respect that disregards her welfare and isn't worthy of her friendship because if they did or were, they would put her recovery first and foremost, before their own needs. If she's to avoid thinking of drinking, she's to avoid people who talk about it all the time or who see nothing wrong with getting wasted. Or, more subtly, she even needs to avoid people who don't understand the needs of an alcoholic, who don't grasp that even one drink can set her back. They might not understand why she can't just drink moderately or minimally like they do and think she's overreacting and overwrought in avoiding even walking by the bar. But she knows she needs to change her paradigms, her surroundings, and her influences, and it's not her job to make them understand: it's her job to save herself from herself at all costs.

There are many who regard same-sex dating as akin to adultery and who regard homosexuality as akin to alcoholism, and they treat it accordingly, with as much severity of tactics. They believe that anyone who ever had anything to do with them dating someone is to be excised and forgotten, that if they try to cling to any relationship, it is only a clear indication of their selfishness and disregard for that person's welfare. I believe it's sick, and it's wrong. But it's what people do, and it's understandable to me, since I used to think similarly. So I accept that to someone, I am a source of temptation, one who doesn't understand what they think is the big picture, the adulterous homewrecker selfishly focusing on my loss rather than on their efforts for happiness. So be it. Most of us have done something like that at some point, often in more adolescent years, for one cause or another. Not everyone has, and some have to prove something to themselves later in life. Maybe some of these isolators or shunners are in that boat. Maybe some are just plain mean. Maybe some are dealing with emotions they can't get a grip on. Maybe some have completely different reasons and motives. But they have their reasons.

06 February 2011


OK, so maybe the problem is that I was as "right" as I feared, that I hoped my fears were wrong. That I had faith something would override the self-defenses, that my intent would be clear, that...[he] would say anything but what he said. Here's the deal: I wrote [him] an exceedingly long e-mail last Tuesday.

Ha, I can hear half of you groaning and smacking your foreheads. It was time: just trust me when I say I wouldn't take back that decision or edit down the letter, making it either relatively pointless or masking certain realities for fear of misinterpretation.

About three weeks ago now, a few conversations and circumstances brought [him] into the forefront of my mind again, and I had an emotional relapse as I let go of some lingering hopes I hadn't realized I was holding on to. But I also felt like the unknown was now worse than knowing the truth. I was ready to clear the air and move on. I started writing the letter, but about a week later, I had stopped. About two weeks later, even though I no longer felt the need to finish it or hear from him, I also knew that it was probably time to say what I needed to, and to offer the opportunity to clear the air a bit and set up future boundaries just in case he, too, could use some closure. To assume he didn't would be as presumptuous as assuming he did.

The only (or maybe 'best'?) way to know is to ask, and I decided that if I was going to contact him at all, I was just going to lay it all out there and get it out of the way, so there was no regret over things not said, no hidden agenda, no hidden motives, and no endless back-and-forth to try to get out what I really wanted to say. It seemed too trite or transparent to just say, "I hope we can be friends someday." There was so much more to it than that, and I didn't want to hide behind a noble face and put on airs about having only the simplest, purest intentions. Better to show my hand than to play politics. I laid it all on the table. And it felt right when I clicked "Send". "It's in his hands now. Either he can hurt me one last time with a final blow, or he can offer some closure, or we can have a brief exchange to clear the air and push 'reset' and allow the possibility of future contact of some kind at some point, or there can be misunderstanding...but something is better than nothing, even if it ends it."

I opened the letter by acknowledging I didn't know how he'd receive it, that I hoped he was well and had heard he was. I mentioned a gift I'd left in a sealed yellow USPS envelope placed in a grocery sack on his porch in December and how I hoped he'd received it without trouble from roommates. It included a brief recorded message of an upbeat "goodbye" nature, telling him clearly that I did not expect a response but wanted to say I kept coming back to a place of peace about our relationship, and a copy of the song "I Wish You Love". I had thought that might be my last contact, but I knew I might hit a point where I'd be ready to say more and invite a response, but only when I was ready to hear the worst, or to hear nothing even after inviting a response. That time had come. I was ready.

I explained the difficulty I've had with coming to terms with his decision, with knowing I want him to be happy and wishing I knew how to share in his journey but recognizing that may not be possible. I explained my emotional journey in that regard, so as to not hide any possible underlying motives and to explain that my distance hasn't been out of hatred or disregard but out of self-preservation. I explained how hurt I was by his coldness when he broke things off, not to punish him but...well, part of it was for me, of course. Part of my healing was to let him know how his actions affected me and seeing if he would offer any clarity, even if painful to me.

Part of it, though, was so that he would have an idea, for the future, because I had been in his shoes, where I'd been emotionally detached and had hurt someone without realizing how deeply I'd done it or how it had affected her. Had I known, I would have done it differently, and I would have been more responsive to her. But we all learn these things at our own pace. At his age, I had never had my heart broken, and I had never been in the position I've now found myself in, so I didn't know how to respond to it. Now, I'm still far from perfect, but I at least have a better idea of what a couple of girls went through with me, and if I could now go back and handle it differently, I would. I would communicate less defensively (though I didn't have any idea how defensive I was being), I would be more clear about boundaries but also more clear about the reasons for them and my sincere appreciation for their friendship without the fear of them "misconstruing" it as a hope for more, and I wouldn't be so damned clinical...or maybe I would in the moment.

All I know is that I am so very grateful that a couple of girls in my life wrote me, at great emotional risk, to tell me how our relationship had affected them, how deeply they'd felt, and how hard it had been for them to cope with the emotions they were feeling. Looking back, I'm so grateful they gave me the opportunity to respond to that, to understand what I couldn't grasp firsthand, and to prepare for the day when I, too, would feel something similar, and I would see that these otherwise really great, level-headed girls weren't so crazy after all. I figured it's my turn to be in the vulnerable place.

I told him how confusing his turnaround was, and how I had wondered, briefly, if he had led me on all along but how I hoped I was correct to believe I knew him well enough to know he'd never intentionally do that. I expressed what my fears and insecurities had been, in possibly too much detail but not wanting to disguise anything, and I said that, in the end, I believed he had genuinely done the best with what was a very new and difficult situation for him, and we both probably handled the break-up the best we knew how. I said all of this so he'd know I saw past even my own emotional reactions to who I truly believed he was, to show that when all is said and done, despite the pain and anger and confusion, I've always come back to a place of peace and have no regrets about having taken the risk and gotten to know him because beyond all of the romance, our friendship was special to me and was clearly something good.

I explained that yes, we probably had to agree to disagree about certain philosophies and decisions. I thought maybe I should gloss over this, but then I decided that, no, if we were to have any kind of friendship, I didn't want it to be with masked disagreements, so I was very frank about it, but I also made a point of the fact that I knew he was probably determined, and I understood he has beliefs and contexts within which to make his decisions, and I ultimately hope for his happiness. I said this was not intended to sway him (I didn't believe he could be swayed anyway). I explained that I had refrained from sharing certain details and disagreements out of fear that he might one day accept the ideas and look back disdainfully at me, believing I tried to steer him away from truth. I explained that I also didn't want to be the enemy of the parents of someone I loved, so I couldn't position myself as one who convinced their beloved son to pursue a path to hell. I explained that I didn't want to lure him away for my own self interests. I left it at that and told him if he ever got curious--and I acknowledged he probably wouldn't--he could read my blog for my evolution of thoughts on certain therapies of homosexuality. I also invited him to let me know, if he ever did read my blog, if he was uncomfortable with anything I'd written, though I'd tried to be respectful. I wanted to make it clear my blog wasn't meant to be a gossip column at his expense. I still don't want that, even though my feelings for who he now is are very different from my feelings for who I thought he was last summer.

I talked about the things I appreciated about him and about our relationship/friendship. I wanted him to know that what I most loved about him wasn't the fluffy stuff but was his deeper traits and qualities. When I used the word "love", I meant it in the purest sense I know of, not just a romantic sense. But I did also tell him that I am now unafraid to tell him I was falling in love with him, that there wasn't any psychoanalysis that convinces me otherwise, and that I am also now unafraid to say, as pathetic as it may seem at my age, that I believe what we had was the best relationship I've had with anyone I was romantically interested in. I acknowledged that I may have better someday, but I appreciate what we had, and I hope we each individually find what works best for us and believe we will.

Yes, I said those things partially because I wanted to "testify" to him about what I believe to be true while I had the chance to do it and while I still felt it in my heart, before it was snuffed out completely. That may have been a mistake, but I'm not convinced it was, and I don't yet regret it. I also said those things to come clean as to where I'm coming from and to go on to explain that whatever disagreements we may now have, and even though 'partnership' or romance is clearly no longer an option, we had the foundations of a great friendship I don't think should be completely discarded, even if it must be on hold. Even if we don't know what to do with each other right now, or how to fit into each other's lives, I invited him to share his thoughts or feelings on it, and I would respect his desires. As I said,
"I value the connection we had too much to leave the door completely closed out of self defense, pain, ease, insecurity of belief, or fear that you no longer reciprocate even the desire for friendship. Even if I don’t know what to do with you, I care about you and wouldn't want my silence to communicate anything different."

I knew the frankness of my email, including my feelings and thoughts about the quality of our relationship and some specific memories which made me remember last summer more fondly than sadly even as I tucked those memories away and moved on, might be misinterpreted as a last-ditch effort to sway him, which I acknowledge may have played a small emotional part, but I consistently told my emotions that no, he was set in his path, and even if he did somehow change his mind, I knew I wouldn't have gotten back together with him. I couldn't trust his commitment, even though I wished I could trust it if it were, by some remote chance, offered. That's the thing: I acknowledged to myself that yes, even if I was almost emotionally tidied up, there were still some messy nooks and crannies, so I wasn't going to pretend there weren't. After thinking a lot about it, I decided I had reasons for writing it the way I did, and I couldn't have a clear conscience if I didn't say exactly what I felt and thought in case it would ever be of benefit. I figured I had little to lose in putting it out there and trusting that he'd understand my intent, knowing my heart pretty well (I hoped), even if it rubbed him the wrong way somehow.

I admitted that most of my fears and hang-ups about contacting him seem to be in the past now and that I feel good and am moving on but confessed (again, so as to not hide possible less-conscious motives) that some part of me might still feel like a regular friendship wasn't enough, so I wasn't talking about reconnecting in a personal way now, not for a while, and that I was just touching base. I told him I hoped he was taking care of the 'him' I loved even while becoming a better version and seeking out his goals. I told him that I was pretty sure he had good friends to rely on now, but if he ever found himself needing someone to talk to, I hoped he'd know he could contact me, and that I wouldn't read anything into it other than him needing to talk to someone (I only make such promises when I'm confident I can keep them).

I closed my thoughts by saying:
"Even though I may still, for now, see you through the eyes of someone who was in love, and who was hurt, the attachment and defensive detachment will pass in time and may have largely passed already. Time will tell. When all is said and done, whether or not we're in contact, I think it’s safe to say that I can’t imagine not always loving you as a brother and friend."

Then I ended with a light-hearted quip to let him know what I was feeling wasn't all heavy and somber and that I had to laugh a bit as I move on.

His response? One short paragraph: he doesn't want any contact with me. Don't contact him anymore. He won't respond to any future emails. He doesn't want to retain any form of friendship. He will not seek out any form of communication with me.

It was maybe the worst possible response. I had been ready to face the probability that he didn't want to--or needed not to--stay in touch, at least for now, but there was no way to fully prepare for his response. There was no way to stoically watch my faith in the kindness of someone I so strongly hoped would be responsive to the vulnerability I struggled to place in front of him be completely obliterated without so much as an, "I cared about you, but I'm moving on and can't look back." I hoped for too much, even though I told myself not to expect much, just in case. Even after having explained my reaction to the coldness last time, only more coldness in return. More daggers. No sensitivity. No willingness to discuss anything. No friendship whatsoever. Nothing personal in it. No value. No signs of [him] in it. Surely he's not still so fragile that he needed to be so cruel out of self defense. No, he has killed whatever true love, friendship or otherwise, there may have been, end of story. There's no way he could not know how wrong that response would be to someone you ever cared about. I mean nothing to him now, if I ever did. What I thought I saw in him was a mirage, or has been made into one. I was wrong. There's something more important to him than his own humanity. What a fool I was. I never knew him as I thought I did. But the truth is that whatever anger I've experienced, it's because this hurt so intensely.

I felt broken but relieved and oddly strong as I wrote, through sobs and blurry eyes, the last thing I will ever send him and would ever want to, since I felt like I was writing to some jerk I didn't know who had murdered [him]: a brief e-mail apologizing, clarifying that this response of his was the first time he ever defined any boundaries other than agreeing to the few months of no contact I had proposed during our last conversation, but that now that boundaries were defined, I would respect them. I told him I certainly never meant him any harm or confusion and will consider my friend to be completely gone. And I do.

A close friend confessed to me, last night, that he felt responsible for my pain for a while because the night before the unexpectedly sudden break-up, he told [him] that I, more than any other single person, have made him question his orientation and his testimony so much that it has forced him to really get to the heart of some issues and find out what he believes, and that it's been challenging. I knew our interaction had challenged him, as we'd discussed that, but I didn't know he had said it quite so bluntly to [him]. I also know that my own convictions have always developed and grown because I was challenged, and I think the greatest conviction comes from challenging and questioning to penetrate the fluffy stuff and get to the real core of matters, yet I don't consider it my role to go around challenging people's beliefs and have been careful to respect others' beliefs even while articulating my own when questioned or pressed. But suddenly, with this new information, [his] statement to me during our break-up conversation that he "can't question everything his whole life and wants conviction" seemed to make that much more sense, coupled with the strong airs of "conviction" you find at Evergreen Conferences. I thanked my friend for finally telling what he's been afraid to tell me, told him I clearly wasn't thrilled with the apparent presentation though I figure he was only telling [him] what he believed to be true, and said I didn't singly blame him for the break-up but that it might make some sense of a couple of things [he] had given me as reasons and might have played into his sudden apparent distrust of me which hurt so much.

Whatever the reasons for [his] curt response, I have never felt so disappointed by someone. I know now that I could never be with someone who could be so cold to someone they supposedly cared about so much. Even if we did ever have contact again, I couldn't entrust my feelings to him again or believe what he says he's feeling. Even if he was just following the guidance of a parent or some shit-for-brains counselor or mentor, I couldn't be with someone who follows that kind of loveless counsel, even for self preservation. Immaturity and confusion are understandable excuses, but I was once immature, and I was once confused, and I never did anything so devoid of heart, at the very least not to someone who had never really earned such distrust. Or have I? Shoot, we've all been confused and made decisions we either regret or would regret if we remembered them. I've been an ass, too. Right, deep breath, let it go, forgive.

In any case, I see that he never really knew me or truly cared as I thought he did, or nothing could have convinced him to so completely distrust and coldly shut me out. I see that so much of what he said to me while we were together is now made invalid, whether or not he thought he meant or believed it at the time, no more than a passing fancy and experimentation. It was so convincing, though, that I couldn't trust him on any level of vulnerability again. Ha, so his aim is accomplished: no friendship. And mine is accomplished: I don't wonder.

I'm not going to speculate on his reasons. The answer was heartless, almost cruelly cold, and I have to accept it at face value. The bridge is burned, and I'm walking away from the chasm, the charred remains of what I hoped. I know he may have had all kinds of reasons for protecting himself, for seeing warning signs in the email I sent, for not knowing how to respond, etc. The reasons don't matter to me. The friend I trusted with my emotions would have found a better way to cut it off than this. The guy I fell for is dead to me, even if for forgivable reasons, now possessed by some heartless, self-serving ass I don't want to know. The truth is I knew I was giving him one last opportunity to really, truly hurt me, and the truth now is that he can never hurt me any more than he has now, and I feel free because of it. It's nice to have the closure, painful though it was. I've always preferred to know that someone doesn't want to waste their time with me than wonder if they do. And once I know, I'm pretty good at letting it go and moving on. Communicate with me. It might hurt. It might destroy me for a day. But it's so much better in the long-run than withholding the truth.

After all is said and done, even though I've dealt with some pretty raw pain and hatred since yesterday, and I don't know how I'll trust anyone's supposed love again, I somehow think I will. I'm not ready to give up on that yet.

Lesbians do it better?

A friend recently directed my attention to an article discussing a study in which researchers actually found that young adults raised by female same-sex partnerships actually did better academically and showed fewer behavioral problems than those raised in mixed-sex-couple-headed homes. I'm sure those opposed to gay parenting will tell you there are all kinds of "explanations" for this that have nothing to do with two women being anywhere near as good for children as one woman and one man, and it's probably too small a sample to be statistically significant...not that such arguments have ever stopped "pro-family" groups from cherry picking statistics when it works in their favor...

05 February 2011

So utterly mistaken

How am I so consistently so very wrong about the people I'm attracted to? I'm becoming increasingly sure that I can never trust my heart again in matters of romance, and though I'm not yet ready to settle for the safety of less passionate stability without the wonders of what I've felt, I'm a step closer. Is this awakening to reality?

Where I saw tenderness and sensitivity, only selfishness and cruelty remain. Where I saw love and affection, only a mirage. Where I saw the most beautiful friendship with potential for more, nothing but a demand for no contact ever, and no form of friendship whatsoever. Where I perceived trust, absolute distrust. But I know what I felt, and it was true. How am I supposed to recognize when it's genuinely returned after this?

I was about as wrong as you can get about the person who mattered so much to me. How am I supposed to ever trust what I feel again?

04 February 2011

All Figured Out

In my dream tonight (the early morning of 4 Feb 2011) I found myself walking into a large church building, more like a corporate-style building than a church, really, like one of the Institutes of Religion. I sat down in the back of a large Elders' Quorum meeting next to several male friends from my past and present. There were probably a hundred or so men in the meeting, and I felt both at home and like a visitor. The discussion felt empty, organized but devoid of the meaning it once held. They joked about how good the lesson was and tried to relay it to me, since I'd missed it, but I didn't really care to be caught up. It sounded like it had been very canned with a few typical sports analogies and pop culture references to make it funny/relatable but without any real depth.

I knew there was a likelihood [he] would be there, probably towards the front, but I didn't look for him or hope he'd find me in the second-to-last row. I didn't hide, either. I just was there. I realized this was not home, nor was he any longer, and it was OK: I was just visiting.

I found myself wondering if he'd received my extremely long e-mail message in which I laid out what I'd been through emotionally/mentally before and after the break-up and inviting some clarity from him if he was willing, or at the very least leaving the door open to some kind of future friendship when/if possible, or whether it had gone into his Spam mail because he'd marked my e-mail address as Spam when we said goodbye.

The meeting adjourned, and everyone was to head downstairs for a huge ward meal. They called the downstairs the 'restaurant,' which I thought was funny. Even ward meals had taken on a corporate aspect. A female friend walked into the cultural hall, where the Elders' Quorum meeting had been held, and asked if I would be joining them for the meal. I both was uninterested and figured that just in case [he] was there, I'd encroached quite long enough, and I informed her I wouldn't, that I was heading out right now. And that's when I saw what I knew was the back of his head. My friend and I said good-bye, and I made my way out of the nearest door of the cultural hall. And I heard faint footsteps approaching behind me.

I thought it might be him. I didn't want to look like a pathetic lurker who had hoped to be spotted, so I tried to quickly but casually make my way outside of the building. But as I exited the cultural hall into the foyer, my legs went rubbery, kind of like when you're being chased by a madman with a gun or by a monster (something I haven't experienced in many years). There was no terror or dread, just rubber legs whose uselessness I cursed as the footsteps drew nearer. By the time the footsteps reached me, I was scooting along an interior wall towards the doors on my rubbery knees, legs flopping as I tried to stand on them. It was quite a sight. Then the footsteps passed me, and their owner walked on by. It was him. He didn't stop. He was on his way to a drinking fountain. I thought I should probably be sad, disappointed, or hurt that he didn't even bother to say anything or didn't notice me, but I was OK with it. I didn't want to force contact, anyway.

My legs recovered their strength, and I open the doors to step outside just as he came back around the corner. I looked forward so he wouldn't feel obligated to stop, not knowing I'd seen him, but he spotted me and followed me out. Now, his hair was clean-cut, and his face and features more slender or delicate than in reality. He was actually more "my type" in the dream. He looked at me with a fairly blank expression and held out his hand with arm fully extended for a handshake. I was not surprised, and I was not hurt that I could see that he genuinely didn't want a hug, that he was not fighting any desire for one. I shrugged inside and gave him a quick handshake and kept making my way to the staircase down to the parking lot. He walked beside me, keeping a distance, with his hands in his pockets, very businesslike, very composed, very plastic. Other than that, he seemed like his usual, kind self. He just seemed more 'together', more 'mature' in that phony 'quiet dignity' kind of way which I am never quite convinced by, but it was OK. He seemed well, and that was good to see. And I could see that he wasn't angry and apparently hadn't thought I was trying to win him back, which was good. Then he simply said, "You really wanna get everything figured out, don't you?"

I gritted my teeth as I knew the subtext behind that statement, the assumptions and the belief that I was trying to "control" my emotions or the situation. I replied, "I don't have any illusions about figuring everything out, but yes, I like to figure out what I can. Most things, I may not ever know. But it's not just about knowing it all: I believe in communicating my thoughts and feelings, tentative though they may be, and giving others the opportunity to help clarify or add their perspective to fill in the picture for understanding if they're willing. I believe you can learn and improve from things like that. I believe in trying to lay out the pieces and try to put them together in a way that makes the most sense rather than trying to make the pieces fit into a canned answer, even if that would be easiest for me emotionally."

I glanced over and saw that his face showed he maybe hadn't thought of it quite that way because he had tried to fit what I was doing into preconceived molds he had, but that he was still quietly, confidently self-assured about his own perspective. I was fine with that; I'd expected it. And I knew that I was likely making just as many assumptions about his perspective by 'expecting' a certain response from him, which had been one thing I wanted to clarify about my email: that while I was concerned that he might be thinking certain things, I recognized that those concerns might be completely misdirected or off-target...and I decided it doesn't matter at this point. So I let go of the irritation at that having been the only thing he said to me.

I felt like I was walking with a shell of an old friend for whom I had no more romantic desire and towards whom I now felt something like indifference, with whom I now had some clearly irreconcilable differences, and it was OK. I didn't need to figure it out or resolve anything anymore. I had shared my thoughts and feelings, and that was enough. As I continued descending the stairs, I realized he was gone. He had simply faded away as we walked. And I wasn't relieved or sad. I just kept walking home, at peace.

As I awoke prematurely, a bit puzzled by the whole scene, I thought, "How strange that this is my first-ever dream of him."

03 February 2011

If snails can do it...

I've realized that I'm just not convinced by the idea that theoretically perfected celestial beings with immortal, glorified bodies of light who are on a track to omniscient omnipotence still require a penis and a vagina to procreate new celestial or spiritual beings.

I mean, if that's the way it is, then that's the way it is. Maybe it's as simple as living within the constructs we're officially aware of. And if that assumption is made and decided on, then all of this hubbub over same-sex relationships is justified.

Maybe whether or not God could have done it another way, this life has a prescribed purpose, and procreation is central and essential to this life's purpose, and he set us up to need penes and vaginae to procreate, end of story. Naturally, God is a 'he', and a heavenly mother exists necessarily because God needs a heavenly female to complement his heavenly maleness in order to heavenly procreate spirit children. But we don't talk about God's wife...or wives...because she's...they're...so sacred, implying, of course, that God The Male Father is not as sacred because we talk about him all the time, but that implication is not sacrilegious because...well, they just have different roles, so they're equal but our mortal existence only deals with him...for some reason...maybe our heavenly moms needed a break after birthing so many billions of spirit children and they're off getting heavenly spa treatment on the other side of the galaxy... Where was I? Ah, right: So procreation (by divinely arbitrarily chosen method of the union of sperm from a male and egg from a female) and raising souls unto eternal glory is our primary source of purpose and joy, and therefore any deviation from that leads to only partial, or limited, joy and is therefore regarded as 'sin'...you know, for our own happiness.

And within this template, some of us are just tested to see if we'll abide by that system by choice, and in the next life, we'll all be all fixed up into proper, binary male-or-female fashion and rid of any messy wiring which had us attracted to the wrong sex. Maybe hermaphroditic humans are actually just tweaked telestial bodies of a fallen world housing sexually dichotomous 'spirit bodies' and will, in their perfected form, be changed to perfectly sexually differentiated resurrected souls with accompanying, perfectly differentiated and dichotomous gender traits. And we'll all be properly paired, penis-possessors with vagina-possessors (in a one-to-many ratio for maximized production volume, assuming there are that many more vagina-possessors in celestial glory than penis-possessors...perhaps God created more of the former or made them more celestial-prone for this very purpose).

I just find it hard to believe--pardon my skepticism--that if certain wrasses change sex depending on social triggers, and certain snails have mastered hermaphroditic sexual reproduction, gods still absolutely need a penis and a vagina to determine pairing and reproduction. It seems, to me, a touch...inelegant a solution.

But hey, rules is rules. If that's the way things is, then that's the way things is, and we'll be blessed for abiding by it and not rocking the boat to churn up the discontent of the masses even if I'm on to something, here. So we needn't ask questions like whether celestial animals will reproduce, and if so, whether celestial snails will therefore be made male and female in order to follow the "perfect" celestial order of things to match eternal 'gender' roles, or whether they just have their own perfect pattern not related to ours. ...And whether any of those poor, hermaphroditic snails who felt like a male trapped in a he-she snail body will--gotcha!--turn out to have been female spirit-snails all along! We mustn't wonder whether eternal sex, let alone gender, is much more nuanced and complex than some binary male-female physical/spiritual dichotomy or whether males can appropriately and divinely possess traits that happen to be more often found in females but aren't inherently 'feminine' in some eternal sense. That just gets all kinds of intellectually and emotionally messy. No, better to just play along and focus on other easier-to-digest things, like the ward chili cook-off!

What a hoot if we get to the other side, and God hugs us and says, "Hey, so...my first announcement for you newcomers: we're all hermaphrodites here, and gender is more about your traits and complementarity than your gonads. Sorry. I just didn't know how to tell you all in a way that wouldn't make your brains go mushy or throw your sense of gender identity all wonky, so we sort of enforced the whole male-female thing and had that same-sex marriage fiasco to deal with. What a mess, but hey, for your obedience, here you go: I've put a little extra joy in your heart. Doesn't that feel nice?"

Educational supplemental material
Warning: the following video depicts highly erotic sexual activity between hermaphrodites. Please click to acknowledge you are of age to view this material:

I understand and am of age

Less than but equal?

It began with the question from my brother: "So I gotta ask you something I've never understood. If same-sex couples can have all of the same rights and legal privileges in civil unions as heterosexual marriages have, as has been done in California, why make so much noise about the word marriage, and change the meaning of something most of society believes means something else by definition? It seems like a grab at power or affirmation." Something like that. I groaned inside at the prospect of another of "these" conversations, but I was interested to get to the root of some of his views while explaining and refining mine and hopefully helping him see where 'the other side' is coming from as requested.

There were the usual elements of such a conversation, discussion about what the word means, religion's role in the definition, militant gay activism, the church's role in Prop 8, the role of prophets (from an LDS perspective), obedience, greater good, evidence for same-sex marriage being a positive change and whether existing evidence is valid or sufficient enough to make such a leap.

We fundamentally disagree on several fronts, such as religious beliefs, how to effect change in society, the value of social 'stability' weighed against the role of government or equality, the threat same-sex marriage actually poses to social stability, and probably along with that, where the best balance between progress and stability is found: I think in my mind he's the frustratingly "if it ain't broke don't fix it" type who tends to sacrifice progress to formulaic oversimplification, and I suspect in his mind I'm the organizationally naive type who overestimates society's capacity to adapt and self-correct and sacrifices proven stability to abstract analysis.

But what it came back to, after two hours of discussion, was two fundamental points:
  1. This is, at its root, related to what the word 'marriage' means to society in general, or to the majority of individuals in society, especially in religious connotation.
  2. Both sides are motivated primarily or exclusively by emotion or 'belief', and both are equally as outrageous and/or guilty as the other in each other's eyes.
It also helped hit something home a bit more thoroughly to me: if I find a great guy to spend my life with, and we form a union of whatever kind we're allowed, and we raise children (assuming I can ever afford adoption or surrogacy...let alone become more comfortable with the idea of surrogacy) our relationship will be inherently "less" than my brother's marriage in his eyes. This would not mean he would think any less of us as individuals. It would be because he values his marriage so very much that a relationship which doesn't include everything his marriage (which I've always thought is excellent) includes, such as procreative ability and a supposedly more ideal parenting pair (with sexual dichotomy) is simply a different kind of relationship and deserves a different label. More than being different, though, it's missing pieces that he considers essential to the definition of 'marriage', the sacred institution and relationship to which he aspired and worked so hard to be worthy of. In his mind, you get married because you're going to unify as a man and woman in order to bring lives into this world and raise them together, and there is one relationship set apart for that purpose. No matter how well-intentioned two men or two women may be, they just can't make babies, and that means their purpose in unification is patently different.

In trying to really grasp where he's coming from, I had to set aside the fact that he doesn't regard sterile mixed-sex couples as having a relationship inferior to his or 'missing' anything, even if they know before marrying that they're sterile. I tried to set aside my belief that procreation is not somehow more selfless or noble a goal than adoption (a point on which most people would likely disagree based on the genders of the parents). I didn't argue that my goal in marrying a man would, I think, be to raise children together: to have a family. I set aside my disregard for institutional and social approbation (I was never much for ceremony and recognition, so having any approval but God's and my own was never very important to me). I set aside the reality that many straight couples think of marriage more as a love-commitment than a child-rearing union because in his mind, they, too, are missing the point of marriage, but they at least have the key elements should they figure it out.

I had to face the fact that even if my relationship with my male partner was the kind of relationship most mixed-sex couples only dream of as far as our communication, intimacy, and partnership, and we worked together to raise children wonderfully, our relationship would be patently inferior because it could never be naturally procreative (at least not with current scientific knowledge or human physiology), it would deprive our children of a true mommy, and it could never be sanctified by God in a temple. No matter how amazing our relationship is, or how trashy and flimsy many sanctified mixed-sex marriages are, our relationship would be "less than" (his words, spoken in kindness, meant to be descriptive, not demeaning) his marriage.

Look at it this way: all else being equal, most people can describe what a mixed-sex marriage has that a same-sex marriage doesn't (e.g. penis + vagina = natural reproductive capability, male role model for Timmy and female role model for Sally, suburban neighbors' heads don't explode when they bring a casserole or cookies to the new couple on the block), but find me people who can describe what a same-sex marriage has that a mixed-sex marriage doesn't...that was my "ah-ha" moment in understanding where he is coming from and why he's comfortable saying it's a patently different relationship with limitations, not imposed by anyone but inherent in the kind of pairing it is.

It's a relative, perhaps qualitative judgment not on me as a person but rather on the type of relationship, not even necessarily on the specific relationship itself. Though I think I'd struggle to really distinguish those, since my relationship would be sacred to me (I can't imagine spending my life with someone without it being sacred), I think I can handle it, having faced that realization ahead of time. I'm gonna have to handle it regardless. That's just the way it is, as he said, and if most people were as honest with me, they'd probably admit the same.

Even so, he said he could get on board with civil unions being granted all the rights of marriages, inherently different kinds of relationships by nature, one being "more" than the other by procreation, eternal nature, and maybe a few other factors, but with equal legal rights, privileges, protections, and responsibilities. I told him I can respect that perspective.

As for me, I don't much care what any institution "calls" my union but do care very much that my partner has rights of partnership and stewardship over our pooled resources, and I very much care about making a lifetime commitment to each other by whatever means effective and binding in our own minds and hearts. And I care very much that we make sure we citizens aren't cherry-picking civil rights based on religious beliefs hidden behind smoke-and-mirror rationales. I think government should handle civil contracts equally for same-sex and mixed-sex couples and leave religions to exercise religious rites as they believe. "Render unto Caesar..." Of course, I think you'd still have a battle over whether marriage was a religious institution first and foremost, and any push to remove the word "marriage" from law would be attacked by right-wingers as just another attempt to remove God from society (as if politicians didn't add specific mentions of God just decades ago to our coins, mottos, and pledges), blah, blah, blah. I'm pretty convinced that even if you gave "marriage" to religions and "civil unions" (of same-sex and mixed-sex couples) to government, you'd still have a raging debate about whether such recognition of same-sex unions would have dire consequences for society, for our children, for cute little puppies, etc. Maybe that's another post.

02 February 2011

Wicked Tease

A friend sent me a link to an article quoting James Franco as saying, presumably in his cheeky Franco way, "Maybe I'm gay."

James, don't tease. You're already my primary celeb crush, and the only male celebrity I really want to have dinner conversation with. I'm sad I missed you at Sundance Film Festival, but I'm getting over it. Regardless, the following video makes me feel all happy inside and reminds me of something I posted once:

01 February 2011

Overrated Experience (Memoirs of the never-therapized, Part 1)

Those who know me well would almost definitely say I don't err on the side of jumping into new experiences recklessly and without looking. They'd say I err on the side of analyzing objectively until opportunities pass. They'd most likely, possibly, perhaps, maybe be right. At least in many instances. But when something is important or exciting to me, I do most often act on it and engage with few expectations or preconceived notions about what the experience ought to be like. See, the thing I like about my approach is that I recognize that a) until you've experienced something firsthand, you can't know exactly what it's like to experience it, and b) most experiences are what you make of them, in the end. Therefore, I have few regrets and have had many positive experiences. But there are always those who say, "Well, you can have all the ideas about it you want, but unless you've tried it, you don't know, do you? So I invite you to come experience it and see for yourself if it works, or if it's right for you."

OK, cult-master, sure, I'll set aside any reservations to join your program. *wink* OK, so not everyone who says that is a cultist. But seriously, folks, this kind of argument can be said about most things. Does that mean you're going to engage in such things just because enough people 'testify' it has been good for them? What if most of your friends had tried something, and they all said they had good experiences, even if they don't agree with the ideas behind everything they experienced? Would you set aside concerns about what is attached to those experiences, or ideas that you believe to be wrong or destructive, in order to give a fair chance to the experience? Whether or not you would, should you?

I think most LDS people have their ideas about Pentecostalism and whether writhing on the floor screaming gibberish is really what the gifts of the Spirit are all about. But I've had friends who were Pentecostal who told me I had to experience it for myself to know the power and joy of spiritual gifts. They said you can't know until you trust the Spirit and experience it for yourself. I politely declined, thanks.

So what if most of your friends, whom you love and know to be really good people, are Pentecostal or keep joining Pentecostal churches? Some of them admit they don't know if it's all quite what it's cracked up to be, and they may have stopped going, but they really enjoyed the experience of going and have learned principles that have been helpful in their lives, and they've had emotional experiences that have really been cathartic for them. I think most LDS people believe that of course you can get caught up in a mob frenzy of emotion and can think it's some divine manifestation because you feel something powerful, but they'd be skeptical.

I think most LDS people would listen--but skeptically--when a Pentecostal tells them their spiritual gift experience was life-changing. I think most LDS people would acknowledge that maybe they had some spiritual experience and may have even learned something profound about themselves or about eternity but that surely writhing and screaming was incidental to that. They might even study the concept and read the scriptures to see if that's really what it's supposed to be like or if their understanding fits better. They might consider going to the Pentecostal's services just to say they did and being open to whatever comes, but they might be hesitant because if they don't experience a Pentecostal's idea of 'gifts of the Spirit', they know the Pentecostals will likely just think they weren't truly open to it, and they know it's not going to prove anything to them anyway, and they don't feel a need to try it for themselves. When their Pentecostal friends talk about what their church services do for them, how they fill them, the LDS person recognizes that they both believe in a need for God in their lives but either doesn't identify with those particular motivations or feels quite similarly fulfilled by their own church services. And if they did go and experience something, they couldn't be sure it wasn't the devil playing a trick on them.

Or maybe the LDS person agrees the Pentecostal may have had some kind of authentic experience, and they can respect that each person has their own experiences with the Spirit, but that needn't be everyone's experience, and they're still pretty skeptical about its authenticity, and one needn't go to a Pentecostal church to learn those things. But whatever the LDS person's reasons for not going, or not experiencing the gifts of the Spirit if they do go, to many of the Pentecostals, the LDS person has never dared to give God the chance to manifest himself in the most glorious ways. And maybe for some of the more open-minded among them, they shrug and say God works in different ways with each of us. Maybe they acknowledge that not everyone receives the same spiritual gifts, but the LDS person's own lack of that gift or reluctance to try bears no weight in whether the Pentecostals' experiences being overcome by the Spirit are completely authentic.

I do have to say that I don't personally regard the Pentecostal concept of spiritual gifts the same as I regard therapies of homosexuality (while I'm skeptical of both, I admittedly think Pentecostalism is more 'out there'), but what I'm trying to illustrate is the general thoughts and emotions around relative experiences. Perhaps in this sense, some promulgators or fans of certain therapies of homosexuality can relate to _my_ view of those therapies and exercises and understand that if I choose not to engage in them, it's not just about me being dismissive or not giving them a chance. But I do have to acknowledge that no, I have never been to a therapist. I'm pretty sure, though, that if I had, and I still arrived at the perspective I have today, there would be a supposed slew of reasons why my therapy was ineffective or why I didn't quite do it right or lacked the right support system. If it did change me in some significant way, I would be another loss to tragically unnecessary, damaging self-deception. Therefore, if I ever do try it, it will not be to prove anything to anyone who doesn't already think one way or another, because it wouldn't prove anything even if I intended it to, either way.