16 March 2011

Confessions of a Nurtured Homo, Part 1

As I read literature on what supposedly causes young boys to head down a heterosexually retarded developmental path, I see threads of my own life. I know this is how they seduce many guys into their philosophy, guys desperate to believe this "isn't who they are" or "isn't what they were meant to be", so they can then offer them "a way out". Many need to believe they turn out straight if they become the men they were meant to be, and this whole dilemma will be resolved. I think most of that philosophy is bunk, as many of you know, and that it comes down to coping with one's differences and past or approaching relationships in a healthy way that works best for maximum satisfaction and congruence with beliefs. But I know that someone who knows me well enough will see, beyond my skepticism, the ways my life's pieces supposedly fit into that puzzle. In the interest of full disclosure, here are some of the things I might confess to a reparative or other gender identity therapist:

My father worked a lot when I was younger and wasn't always home in the evenings. I looked at my friend down the street whose dad taught him to throw and catch, and even though I was never especially interested in team sports, I felt a little jealous that his dad taught him that. My mom taught me to catch and throw. My brother did sometimes, too, at my mom's request. But Dad didn't "get" me. In the Myers Briggs personality typing, we're conflicting types. I figured he loved me, but I didn't "feel" it from him like I did from my mom. I just had to accept it on an intellectual level. I have happy memories with him from my childhood, like watching The Muppet Show together and him reading the newspaper by the fire with my draped on his side, probably as a toddler. Vacations were always fun, when we weren't car shopping (BORING). But no, we didn't really connect in the cozy, emotional level I did with my mom, and I felt slightly awkward about going anywhere with _just_ him. Even though the tension around that is something I've worked to resolve over the years, and I relate to him better now and am not the least bit uncomfortable admitting I very much show traits from both him and my mom despite some significant differences in personality, I've always remembered that it wasn't always as it is now. Distant father: check.

My older brother who still lived at home while I was growing up was possibly my most prominent male role model as far as attachment goes. He played violin and played football. He really dug girls. Personalitywise, he and I are about as different as siblings can be. He didn't "get" me and often was frustrated by my sensitivity and lack of interest in typical 'male' things. But he was a great older brother in the most important ways, and he cared about me, and I knew he wanted to help balance out my eccentricities with his natural ability to 'fit in', and part of me knew he was right that I was too weird for most people to handle, so I reluctantly tried some suggestions here and there because I didn't like being made fun of so much at school. And I cared what he thought to an extent, even though I denied that I cared what anyone thought, so when he swore at me once for crying, it hurt a lot. Feelings of rejection from male attachment figure: check.

My mother is a bit of a mama bear. She's no demure, mousy housewife, and she has always had a fiercely protective streak. Fortunately, I didn't see much of that growing up except for putting a shady car salesman or two in his place with his tail between his legs. She tried to rein it in and keep any involvement or interference--such as calling the school regarding bullying issues or any such thing--behind the scenes. I had the illusion of mostly fighting my own battles. But she also has always been very involved--even nosy--in her kids' lives, and I was the youngest and was naturally very cuddly as a baby and therefore probably got the bulk of the affection and squeezing and clinging from her. She told me she knew I wasn't perfect, but I was never sure if she could handle knowing, rather than vaguely suspecting, my imperfections, tendencies, and decisions she wouldn't approve of, let alone the ones I didn't approve of, myself. She has had trouble stepping back and relinquishing the mama role. She's been doing much better over the last several years as I told her I needed to cut the umbilical more thoroughly, but the damage may have been done. Overbearing mother: check.

I was given soy formula for years. Soy estrogens: check.

Speaking of bullying issues, I was never bullied much in a physical way, but I was called names in school. I don't know that it was inordinate compared to most people, but I know it was stressful at times. I learned early on that I choose how to react to situations. I learned to try to be selective about whose input I cared about. I learned to respond to threatening situations with disarming mental tactics because I was skinny and weak. Bullying: check.

>> Part 2


Ben said...

You're well on your way to becoming a recovered heterosexual! Recognition and understanding are the first steps! You'll be digging girls in no time!

Bravone said...

I remember how offended and angry I was when an LDS family service counselor decided it was my parents fault that I turned out the way I did. He asked leading questions to get his desired diagnosis. Yes, my father was a bit distant and my mother a bit overbearing, but they are great parents and did their best. A huge problem I see with their theories is trying to explain why, if their theories are truly the cause, all children raised in similar environments don't turn out the same. True, I have another gay brother *cough*, but that's beside the point.

Some kids are sexually abused and become abusers, others not. Most generalizations don't hold up over time.

One theory I'm exploring requires one to believe in a pre-existance. I can imagine that in our pre-mortal state, we developed certain traits and characteristics that we carried with us into this life. Each of my kids seemed to come with their own personalities, strengths, weaknesses, interests, etc. True some can be nurtured, but some are definitely inborn. I can visualize how one with certain personality traits, placed in certain environmental situations could be predisposed to certain outcomes such as homosexuality. Some with the same traits, placed in different environments might not turn out the same.

Having said all that, I do ultimately believe that we are responsible for our own destinies. We are not helpless victims of circumstance. We may never need or want to overcome "the gay," but we can learn to temper our emotions, feelings, urges, etc. That doesn't mean we will magically become straight, but we can decide what role our homosexuality will play in our lives.

I believe God respected us enough to allow us to choose the course of our lives, and we should respect each other enough to allow others to do the same, and to do so without judgment, but with compassion and understanding.

Just my thoughts. Feel free to shoot holes in them.

blj1224 said...

OM -- At least there's no doubt you were well nurtured :-)

Bravo, Bravone! Well said. I imagine OM agrees with most of your conclusions. I know I do.

In my own case, although my mother took good care of me and I never doubted that she loved me, she was emotionally distant, didn't like "other people's kids", and was quite judgemental about pretty much everyone. She never taught me how to cook, sew, bake, be homemaker (she did none of those things well either). I'm grateful :-)

My dad, on the other hand, was always a blast to spend time with, he filled most of my emotional and nurturing needs, he was responsible for pretty much all of my happy childhood experiences. He taught me how to fish, swim, handle a boat, shoot a gun, shoot a bow and arrow, play baseball, fight if I had to defend myself, carve things out of wood, and other miscellaneous and sundry man skills. He also taught me to be honest, to have integrity, to be tolerant, etc. He was a wonderful role model for living life to the fullest as well as living the principles he taught me.

So I made a conscious decision in my early years to NOT do the things I watched my mom do which made her unhappy and unproductive, but to be more like my dad because he loved life and people. I love to have fun, especially with my kids and grandkids, and I'm much more of a "Tom Boy" than a girly girl. I'm thankful for that.

Yes, nurturing plays a role, but my personality was much more like dad's than mom's, and I related much more strongly to him. I, too, believe that we are responsible for our own destinies and we are not helpless victims of circumstance.

Thanks to both OM and Bravone for their insights, for sharing their lives with us, and for appreciating their parents.