Thursday, April 27, 2006
I've been the one to listen and counsel with others who have been struggling... not necessarily with this issue, but any issues that life brings upon them, though I've tried to help those who have most directly struggled with this issue as well... and now I'm supposed to turn my life over to a "professional"? How? Why?
I think I've done a pretty good job so far in "managing" my angst with some success of being able to live in a degree of "normalcy" in this Mormon heterosexual context as a gay man. Over the course of two decades now (yes, don't faint with disdain as you read this, and don't write me off because I'm not in college, nor a recent graduate starting my career - I'm really that old (though I don't feel that old) and it really has been that long (and don't ask me how I've done it, because at times I'm not absolutely sure how I've managed to do it myself, but I've done it and at times with some convincing acting)) I've been able to put together a reasonably happy marriage (at times) and have been a reasonably good father to my children. Note: wow, can a sentence have any more parenthetical phrases???
But, I'm hungering for some validation of these feelings and of this struggle within. I'm hungering for a confirmation of what these feelings are for.
I know that with some, wisdom comes with age. With others, we just get older. I don't feel very wise right now. Will counseling bring wisdom?
Some things that I feel inside me that may or may not be very wise:
1. I have learned to accept these feelings as part of who I am.
2. I don't blame anyone or anything for the "why me?". These feelings just "are".
3. I've spent a lot of time blaming "me" for these feelings.
4. I try to not let these feelings define my whole essence of being.
5. I'm most recently obsessed with defining myself and justifying myself because of these feelings.
6. I struggle with the self-hatred, but have been making strides to not hate myself because I have these feelings. (This is a constant battle... sometimes the self-loathing gets pretty scary).
7. I really like these feelings. I mean, I truly do! I really like men and I really like the feeling when I like men.
8. I have felt "mostly dead" for a good portion of my life. It is really hard to live life acting as if I really don't like men when in fact I really do.
9. I want to feel alive.
10. I feel these feelings have helped me be sensitive to others, and to help others be better.
11. I feel these feelings have helped me to be more creative and expressive as a person.
12. I have been a tool for good for many people.
13. I haven't necessarily been a tool for good for myself.
14. I have felt guilt because of these feelings (though I really don't feel guilty about liking the feeling when I like men and them liking me).
15. I have felt guilt because I've denied these feelings.
16. I haven't been very true to myself.
17. I've been mostly true to my wife and kids.
18. I have caused grief on others (particularly my wife) because of these feelings. My kids have no clue.
19. I feel God's love for me, and I know He knows I have these feelings. He is aware of my struggles and needs.
20. I feel God is merciful and sees the "bigger picture" and will keep things in perspective as I deal with the "package" I've been given.
21. I have a firm conviction that I LIVED before this life and I accepted this "package" willingly.
22. I have a firm conviction that I will LIVE after this life and will continue to be the same person I am now, and that this "package" will help me to be who God wants me to become as I see the "bigger picture".
23. I feel, these feelings notwithstanding, I am "supposed" to be married.
24. This marriage ain't easy because of these feelings.
25. Maybe I shouldn't be married because of these feelings.
26. I feel warm and peaceful cuddling with my wife.
27. I feel happiest when I'm being held by a man who loves me.
28. I need affection from men. I hunger for it. I strive to find it in any form I can.
29. I don't particularly enjoy heterosexual sex (that's a topic in and of itself).
30. I've only experienced homosexual sex in fantacies and dreams.
31. I've never had heterosexual fantacies or dreams.
32. I feel the leaders of the Church don't have a clue what I'm feeling.
33. I can't talk to my Bishop.
34. I can't talk to my wife (without it getting really stressful and freaky). As much as she thinks she understands me, and as much as she tries, she really doesn't have a clue what I'm feeling.
35. I can't talk to anyone.
P.S. Did I mention that I really like the feeling of liking men?
Maybe I'm not very wise after all.
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
After much internal debate, lifelong denial, and spiritual inconclusiveness, I've come to the realization that being gay (meaning that I'm unquestionably and inexplicably attracted to the male form and desire sexually from the same sex), is something that I did not seek, nor can I change. I am the master of my choices of how I deal with this reality, but not the author of why this choice is before me in the first place.
Over the course of my life, I've slowly and reticently been "wired" or "programmed" or whatever you may want to call it, to the attraction of, or the beauty of the MALE FORM. It took me a long time to realize that while other guys around me saw each other as 'well-built' or 'athletic' or what have you, they didn't dwell on the absolute magnetic pull of the beauty of the male form to affect themselves in any way other than casual admiration.
My reaction has always been, from early adolescent recollections to the present, to be much more than casual admiration... there has been the drive to seek out and touch and explore and "know" that admiration in whatever way possible. I have fought those 'reactions' or 'stimuli' my whole life. My religion and belief system has taught me and drilled in me that these reactions or stimuli are WRONG and need to be repented of or they will become sinful. That belief system was so well-ingrained in me from my early childhood, that I have suppressed these urges to "know" more of this attraction for the better part of my life.
I've wondered why I've been able to do so when so many others haven't. Why? Am I so prudish as to think that I am better than others because I have been able to resist these 'temptations' due to my religious training or my disciplined upbringing? Of course not! In fact, I now feel just the opposite! I feel worse off because I have allowed so much time to go by in this internal fight and war raging inside me like Jeckyll and Hyde! I'm beginning to feel regret for having never truly "known" what these attractions are for, and the resulting horrible waste of a life in the process. I'm not judging anyone here, be it very clear! I'm just judging myself (after all, this is my blog, right?).
Maybe I've been able to resist because of my faith, because of prayer, because of the strong social and belief structure of my family. Maybe I've been so obsessed with disappointing my family, particularly my parents. Maybe I've blessed at times in my life to not feel these attractions at all. Months, even a year or two, have gone by when I've been able to resist completely any urge (my early missionary months, and the time spent serving in the bishoprics come to mind) and I ask myself why I was able to do it then... was the Lord "blessing me" in different ways than He is now? But it is true, for me, that I have been able to resist and control and manage these urges or desires or impulses or stimuli or whatever you want to call them, and I've been totally sane and happy at the same time.
However, now is not one of those times. In fact, I feel such urges all the time. I can be walking down the street, or in an airport concourse and "spot" the hottie passing by and I melt inside desiring to 'know' what it must be like to be so beautiful (envy), but also, I want to have some of that meat (carnal lust). I find that when I'm in a gathering of humanity, I seek out finding the "hottest looking guy" or the "cutest guy" in the crowd. Why do I do this? It's like constantly on my mind!
In the past, I've hated myself for feeling this way, for "lusting" at the good looking guys. It may have started as envy, but it hasn't ended at envy. I've prayed and fasted, and searched the ways the Atonement can be applicable to me, and have found solace and peace and a repented (changeable) heart. But, I'm finding lately that I don't feel like I should fight these urges anymore and when I realize the lack of internal fighting, it scares me... Am I becoming undisciplined? Am I becoming so shallow? Am I becoming a slave to my lusts? Am I becoming human?
for I just might give in... and either
1) lose all that I hold sacred and dear, or
2) LIVE for the first time in my life!
I guess it is obvious to this cyber-audience that I'm so naive and stupid and such a "virgin" when it comes to these things... (some may be reading this and say "this kid is a moron!" and I don't blame you). I really don't know what I desire. But, this is where I am in this search for finding the reasons behind these feelings.
Because my physical contacts are limited to emotional, spiritual, and occasionally romantic hugs of affection and kisses on the neck or cheek with another guy, (particularly in my very homophobic and Mormon heterosexual suburbia world that I live in) I'm starving to know more, to feel more, to discover more... and the anxiety level is excrutiating. The db level in my brain is deafening! I don't wonder why, anymore, I just wonder how...
Because I'm a married man, living a heterosexual life in a very hetersexual Mormon world and environment, I have succumbed to finding some relief thru secret "images" in cyberspace. Again, you may think I'm into "porn", or that if I say I am not then you may think I'm in denial again, but as I've discovered the wide range of gay images out there, I honestly find most satisfaction in the "beauty of the male form", the male fashion model sites, the athletic or sports model sites, where guys are still clothed, in a PG-13 audience way, or are nude, but in an artistic non-erotic way.
I am embarrassed as all get out to admit this to myself that I seek these "images" as a resource for finding peace and a means of controlling these powerful and relentless physical urges. Self-loathing begins and I'm trying to resist doing anything self-destructive... I don't "jack off" to the images, at least not often, and yet I find enjoyment in the envious beauty of the male form, the well-sculpted yet athletically thin manliness of the flesh. I know in some circles I'm coming to terms with my "issues" finally in my life, while in other circles, I'm allowing myself to sink into the abyss of selfishness, and the self-destructive temptations of the flesh.
The prophet speaks of "pornography" as the great sin of this generation. I hear those words and yet I don't feel the image to the left is "pornographic"... or is it? Because, you see, I get a "charge" or "thrill" of sorts from it... I just do... and because I don't have anything "real" to relate to, I find my reality is slipping into the world of "virtual reality" and this can't be healthy! Does that make it pornographic to me? Maybe so, and maybe I'm already in the grasp of Satan's hands and there is no hope for me or my salvation, as I've succumbed to the dark side.
I really don't like the 'hard stuff'. It makes me feel dirty and unhappy inside... maybe I'm still a prude and the religious upbringing is still very much a hold of my own reality, or maybe the influence of the Holy Ghost is still effective in my life. I don't judge those who do, I just don't. I don't want to be a slave to these virtual realities and I want to be in control of my destiny as I have in the past... I obviously need a real man to sweep me off my feet and show me what human contact is supposed to be all about.
But the biggest 'sin', if there is one, is the 'hurt' that these images, though non-graphic as they are, may be to my wife, and her feelings that they are symbols of my "unfaithfulness" to her. I can understand that, and the last thing I want to do is hurt her or make her feel less of a woman than she already feels being married to a gay husband. And, I truly love her and don't want to cause her any more pain than our situation already causes her. She's already told me that it hurts her when my 20-something crowd of cute returned missionary guy friends hang around, as she feels I want to be with them more than her and that they can offer me more satisfaction than she can, (even though the vast majority of them are undeniably straight!). I do want to hang around, hang on and hang in them all the time...
Yet, I know this is pointless as well. My reality and my virtual reality neither give me the human contact of man-to-man physical bonding that I so desperately seek. My cyberworld and my real world have made me isolated from the rest of humanity and I find myself withdrawing from life all together.
And I hate it! I hate myself for this! I hate that I'm putting my wife (and ultimately my kids) through this! I feel selfish! I feel dirty! I feel such shame! I feel so alone...
I'm supposed to be the strong one, the leader of the clan, the business and community and religious stalwart... and yet I'm not any one of these... I'm a confused and troubled man in an endless and hopeless story of regret, denial and destruction.
Saturday, April 22, 2006
I've also been part of the couple to the right in a very real way, walking down the street with a buddy or family member, and turning back taking in one more glance at someone so at peace in the arms of another man, and LONGING to be a part of it again, or be a part of it with my friend next to me who is also looking back, but of course, we "can't" be that open or "touchy-feely" because we're guys and real guys don't really do those kind of displays of affection, right?
This debate has been an eternal one for me. And as a married gay man with LDS covenants on the line, the angst is tremendous and burdensome, particularly as my eternal mate knows the internal struggles I have with this issue.
I haven't sought professional counseling like many have, and maybe I should as my anxieties are increasing and these desires for affection with another man are ever increasing. I've had bad experiences with counseling in the past, and so I'm hesitant to go back... and so I am BOLDY BLOGGING instead, hoping that this medium will help my angst... but if I were to go back and figure it all out, I guess there isn't some major event that "made me" this way. I wasn't sexually abused as a child, and I had a pretty normal relationship with my mother and father. They are happily married and have NO concept of my "issues". Though I was never really "close" to my father, and though he was somewhat distant in "relating" with me, he was always there for me and has been most supportive throughout my childhood and adult life and I place no blame on anyone.
So, why do I have this overwhelming desire for male affection? Why has it "haunted me" or "brought me so much joy" throughout my life? Why do I crave for this affection (and I mean affection verses sex) so endlessly?
Obviously, my "needs" aren't being met... except in magical moments, literally moments of time, when I'm in the arms of a friend like on Thursday of this week. That was still so incredible and yet so simple and innocent and beautiful and joyful!
I guess a therapist could analyze the "whys" for me, and believe me when I tell you that I've self-analyzed these "whys" until I'm sick in the head... and I've concluded that I REALLY DON'T CARE WHY!!!! I don't care if I was the male social outcast and sports-team reject during my early childhood years! I don't care if I was the geeky nerd who didn't relate with anyof the other guys in my Ward growing up through scouts or mutual during my adolescence. There can be a thousand reasons why I was "socially" brought to this point.
There can be thousands of reasons why I'm "wired" this way, just as well, and this attraction is JUST THE WAY I AM, despite my early childhood and adolescent rejections or mishaps, or not-fitting-ins. I can believe that, too, because for as long as I can remember (as I look back on it now in retrospective eyes and not knowing at the time while I was living it) I've always been this way! For some, this self-discovery usually occurs early on and is something accepted and realized from adolescence. (How blessed you must be!) With me, this self-discovery is coming as an adult. I've been in denial so long that it is so hard to piece it all back together again! It places an unbelievable hole in my life, this coming to terms with these issues at such a late time-frame. AAUGGHH!
Risking a huge sense of vulnerability that I feel right now, pardon me, but I need to do some retrospective self-therapy (you can participate if you'd like and become my personal therapists!!!):
* In scouting, I was great at getting merit badges on my own, but swimming was a problem lurking over my head, and though I could swim (barely), I wasn't good enough to get my "lifesaving" merit badge and so I swore off the eagle scout thing. It wasn't that important to me, but it was to my parents. Through their insistence, a leader arranged for me to be privately tutored by another boy, an older boy (he must have been a sophomore or junior in high school - I was in 8th grade). I remember how elated I was to go swimming with him one-on-one and how he wrapped his strong arms around me to show me how to pull someone from the water. I then had to wrap my weak arms around him and I remember how "excited" I got. I don't think I totally understood what "arousal" was, but I was having one. I remember being in my living room alone with him and he got on top of me to demonstrate how to do the sharp pressing on the breast bone to induce breathing. He had me sit on top of his waist, straddling him with my knees on each side of him, and do the same to him. I remembering getting very "excited" with this physical contact, and I got hard and was so overcome with feelings that I never had before. I felt different. I worried about it, because I didn't know what "it" was that I was feeling, and I was too embarrassed to ask... only I felt so good and tingly inside, and that it had something to do with being "physical" with another boy.
* By high school, I had sworn off all sports and locker rooms. There was one semester I was still required to take "Boys' Gym" and I remember being a sophomore in a class of seniors. There was one senior in particular who was "extremely" muscular and athletic. (He had to be on steroids but in those days I didn't even know about steroids - but an 18 year old kid just wasn't naturally that big and cut). He was gorgeous, and I loved sneaking stares at his perfectly formed body, or I'd "accidentally" brush against him as we played a game. I don't remember his name but I certainly remember his body. I could "lust" over him for hours. I know he never knew I existed, but I knew he existed, particularly in the gang showers! I knew I wanted to touch him. I felt different and struggled to resist doing anything more.
* By 16 I worked in a grocery store as a bagger. I remember feeling "attraction" for another bagger my age who had started growing a teenage goatee... He was a real hottie. All of the checker girls were salivating over him, and inside, I was too! I felt different. At the grocery store, I discovered "bodybuilding" magazines. There was no Internet yet, and I wouldn't have been caught dead looking at "porn", but this was a "manly sport" and the men weren't naked, so it wasn't wrong to linger over the beauty of the male form, was it? I chalked this up as being "envious" and nothing more. But, to this day, the beauty of the male form has never left my soul! And the search for that perfect male form is ever present.
* BYU was an exciting time. It was the first time to be on my own. My roommate was a mate from kindergarten on... He was a great friend, the only guy in my teen years who accepted me for who I was. We were close and there was a strong bond, but nothing physical. I felt relieved that I wasn't "physically" attracted to him, and since we were going to be roommates in very close quarters, that was a relief to me. We were pathetic in our dating, or lack thereof, and so we had a contest between the two of us that freshman year over who could date the most - I think the winner got treated to all the ice cream he could eat at the Wilkinson Center. I think I won with four dates. Anyway, I remember a time when at least a dozen guys were in our room at the dorm. It was spring and the girls were wearing those new spring dresses. All my dorm buddies were scrambling to look out the window at the coeds walking by and I wasn't interested in the least. I don't know that I thought about it much at the time, but I remember looking at them and wondering what the big deal was... I felt different.
* I remember two returned missionaries lived across the hall from us. They were both on athletic scholarships. They'd come over to our room and share motivational missionary stories and we got to know them pretty well. One time, they just had gym shorts on and were wrestling in our room. The one got pinned and I watched his perfect pecs heaving. His roommate ordered me to take a blue magic marker and draw circles around each of his nipples and a smily face on his well-defined abs. I eager did so, salivating at the chance to get this close to this Adonis... I for the first time, I felt "guilty". I wanted to be close to him "physically". I prayed and prayed for Heavenly Father to remove these feelings from me. I didn't understand these "feelings", as I categorized them as "coveting someone else's physical beauty". I compare this event with the guys staring out the window salivating at the girls going by. If they weren't "sinning" by just looking, was I? I felt different. But the longing for affection was now entrenched.
* Preparing for a mission is an interesting time. I wanted to be worthy and prepared. I wanted to leave behind all my problems and evil thoughts. "As a man thinketh, so is he"... I had been taught. I had never touched a man or woman, or even myself inappropriately; in the physical realm, I was as innocent and pure as they come. In the realm of thought, I had lusted after and coveted the physical male body. I earnestly sought forgiveness for these "desires" that boiled up in me on occasions. I sought peace that I could be worthy to serve. And peace came... walking on campus one spring morning, seeking some assurance that I was ready to serve Him as a full vessel. Peace came in meditation at the back of the Provo Temple! Peace came on a hike alone up Rock Canyon! Since receiving my mission call, I stopped having "feelings". I didn't have any "problems" at the MTC. I loved the MTC! I loved my district! I was finally bonding properly with my male counterparts. My "feelings" never came throughout three-quarters of my mission. I was discovering new ways of expressing love for life. I was opening up to the spirit, to the love of service, to music as I overcame fear of playing the piano, to the love of the people. I was learning to speak and not be shy. I was having such a great time discovering the miracle of who I am. I was awakening! I loved my mission!
* In my last area, I discovered an "awakening" like no other! I met a newly baptized member and we instantly became best friends. Over the course of the following few months we began to become more physically and emotionally bonded. He was the brother I never had. Everything between us was done "in the spirit of Jonathan and David; in the spirit of John the Beloved and Christ", or so, that is how I categorized it in my mind. We did splits together and did amazing team teaching. We read the scriptures together as I was preparing him to go to the temple, and we felt amazing spiritual communications between us. Our relationship developed into a "new brotherly love". I was feeling romantically in love with him, and because the "spirit"was there with us, for the first time in my life... for the very first time, I wasn't scared at all!!! I wasn't worried about looking over my shoulder and wondering what the other elders or my companion were thinking (my companion was really cool about it and we were very close and talked openly about this relationship that was developing). I didn't care about the zone leaders, other members, anyone! I felt so free and alive! I was happy! I was a better missionary! I had found, so I thought, the perfect source of affection that I had so longed after, for all my life. We'd go walking down the streets of Europe arm in arm and I felt so alive! We were brothers and proud of it! He taught me to not be afraid of my feelings and to learn to live!
As time went on, we began to be together more and more... and the affection grew. I may have crossed many lines, but they were always with my clothes on and so went the justification and rationalization. At that time, I was convinced this was a "higher law", a more "Christ-like love" we were experiencing and that the Spirit bore witness to us both that this was TRUE! We were bonding in new ways. I didn't feel "gay" at the time at all. I just felt liberated to express my feelings of love for another man in a special way. We kissed on several occasions, but on his neck, cheek and forehead... somehow full-out kissing on the lips was beyond the line I had drawn for myself as a missionary. He probably would have gone there had I felt comfortable to do so, but for him, it was no big deal.
He was just happy that I was finally happy!
I have never felt someone be so concerned for me and my feelings as he was. He was so selfless, so non-threatening, so at peace with himself and his situation. He didn't profess to be gay or straight... only wanting to live a free and open LOVE as defined in Romans 12:10 "Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love, in honor, preferring one another". That became our creed.
To this day, I feel "pure" about our relationship. I felt that my "love" for him was "pure" and "Christ-centered".
When it was time to leave, my parents came over to travel around Europe and bring me home. How I did NOT want to go home! I love my mission and could easily have stayed on another two years! But even more so, how much I loved the people, and my friend! I had found "love" with a man that "loved" me as well! When my parents came, I felt so empty inside. I realized they'd never understand what I was feeling. I remember like it was yesterday that I felt again so liberated and free, walking arm-in-arm and on occasion holding hands with him, strolling the streets and visiting the tourist sights together with my parents behind us. I was no longer a missionary, per se, as the mission president had turned me over to my parents, and I had no companion other than my "brother" and I felt like I didn't care what anyone thought. I was in love with this man and I wanted my parents to somehow get a clue. It felt so great!
I remember my Dad pulling me aside and asking very direct questions about my open affection with my "brother". I unabashedly explained: "It's the way they do things over here, Dad. This is how friends show their friendship for each other, guy-to-guy, girl-to-girl". That was the only way I could explain it. My father referred to him as "that man". My mother, I'm sure, was feeling this was just a phase I was going through, a sense of euphoria of sorts of the end of my mission... Little do they realize today that I have never gotten over or out of this "phase"!
* I was the MTC teacher, who regretfully came back to America, settled back into BYU life, but could never shake the memories of affection I had learned to feel. I sought to teach those lessons of "brotherly love", of "risking to love", of "spiritual affection", and I did so openly and honestly and was encouraged to do so by my supervisors. I taught the culture lessons and brought missionaries together to rethink their values of "love" and "affection". It was amazing! I had a built-in audience of eager admiring souls hungry for insights of how to relate to this amazing people I had learned to love. And I had all the answers! Or so I thought. Soon the branch turned into a love-fest of open expressions of affection. It was awesome and I was in literal heaven.
* I naturally became attached to certain missionaries as we "explored" these worlds of open affection for each other in the brotherhood of the Gospel. Some got close to "crossing lines" of inappropriateness, but I didn't care. I couldn't see it, and because I wasn't hiding it, there was nothing wrong, right? I was an MTC teacher that was praised for my affection for the missionaries.
* Then I got married to a wonderful woman that showed me a different kind of affection. It filled me with new wonders and excitement and I felt alive and "reassured" that I wasn't gay after all. I couldn't be gay. I was in love with an amazing woman and she loved me. She saw my efforts in the MTC and was attracted to me because of them. I shared with her about my missionary experiences, and though she didn't understand them completely, it was okay. I felt I had been open to her, and she accepted me for who I was, so off we went into the sunset.
* Unfortunately, or fortunately, my longing for male affection has never died. I have been able to suppress it and immerse myself in the Mormon culture of American heterosexual maleness and can play that role most convincingly and have done so for the vast majority of my adult life. I have been able to shun the temptations through prayer, scripture study, and doing good and losing myself in my work. But, no amout of prayer, no amount of scripture study, no amout of good-deed-doing, no amount of hard work, no amount of concentrating on my wife and family, no amount of following the prophet, have been able to shake my core feelings... the feelings of hungering and thursting after this male affection. As much as I try to counter these thoughts, they keep presenting themselves to me.
And after two decades of denial, I no longer want to deny these feelings anymore!
I have told my wife everything. She knows I have these feelings. That is why she doesn't want my male friends to come around me. And yet, I do. I guess that makes me unfaithful and covenant-breaking in my heart. I don't want to break my covenants. I don't want to be unfaithful. But, I can't any longer deny the LONGING I feel for another kind of AFFECTION that I once felt, that I get moments of feeling from time to time, that I fantacize about each and every night I go to bed, that I've had wet dreams about as recently as last week... that I am who I am...
I'm trying to do the best I can. I feel this LONGING is god-given. I feel it is good! I have come to this conclusion after years of soul-searching. I just don't know how to internalize it so that I don't live my life in misery fighting it. Do you?
Sorry for the personal ranting and revelations... I'm sure I've lost my "Internet audience" at this point. I apologize. I should spare you. There's more to the story, but I'm not sure how to tell or if it's even worth telling...
As I reread this pathetic entry, I realize how immature and shallow and un-evolved I am as a human being compared to many out there who have figured out who they are... Maybe I'm just a reject of a humanity and this "child of God" concept doesn't really apply to me.
I just want to love and be loved...
Friday, April 21, 2006
Have you noticed the different ways we encounter others and show our affection?
There is the hug you give your mom or grandmother or mother-in-law. It is sweet and soft, not too brief, not too long and you feel comfort and warmth and it's usually followed by a peck on the cheek.
There is the hug you give your mission companion after companionship prayer. With some companions, it's brief and stern, very quick and often jerky, but it is offered as one male to another saying "I think you're cool but let's not get carried away here." Of course, then there is the hug you give your favorite mission companion that has become your best friend and you've bonded together because of tons of spiritual experiences and trials you've endured together, and you linger a bit longer and even fall into each other's arms each night... (of course I'm getting carried away, but this is my blog, right?) This happened to a dear companion of mine... my last companion, a companionship that lasted several amazing months! (Our story together is material for another entry on its own!!!)
There is the hug you give your father or brother after a spiritual or serious moment, such as a priesthood blessing or ordination. This hug is usually stiff and you take turns slapping each others backs several times in good macho calculated rhythmic measure. Not too much touching, but quick, loud slap-beats of affection just the same.
There is the friendship hug where you put your arm around each other's shoulder and squeeze the other's shoulder a bit saying... "I'm here for you and you can always depend on me".
There is the hug of intimacy between husband and wife, the cuddling and security of being in each other's arms, a peace you offer each other of unity, love, and romance.
AND there is the hug that happened to me yesterday... a full body hug between two male friends (one straight, the other gay -- you determine who's who) of strength, squeezing around each other's waists, nestling our heads into each other's necks and whispering our love of friendship to the other, using our hands to slowly and tenderly massage the other's back...
I was about to head off to work yesterday morning. A dear friend of mine calls. We talk for a while and he tells me he wants to come over and bring me something. I'm a bit nervous as my wife is home, and in our currently relationship / agreement of my dealing with being gay I've promised her not to bring "friends" around... (sort of as a help to me to not get too involved with other males I'm naturally attracted to, and to respect her feelings of hurt and jealosy when she sees me longing to be with them... it's all very complicated and stressful and painful... and that's another topic for another day) but with a touch of hesitancy and a thrill of joy, I tell him to come over.
I wait nervously. This is ridiculous! Why am I nervous? I haven't done anything... yet...
It works out that my wife is in the backyard and out of view. I feel like I'm cheating just standing there as I open the door and see my tall, gorgeous young male friend smiling at me in the cutest way that makes me quiver inside. I'm not sure if he knows my inclinations, but other than in words, I haven't tried to hide them much. We immediately embrace. It is our common practice between each other. It feels so good to be in his strong, athletic arms. He engulfs me as I engulf him.
We talk for a while and he updates me on his life and the new adventures and challenges before him. (We hadn't talked for a couple of weeks). I stare at him in complete awe of his amazing maleness. He's so beautiful, both inside and out. I don't hear all of his words as I'm distracted by his perfect hair and internal glow!
The conversation turns to me and without saying much he feels my pain and senses my internal struggles and grief. I disguise it as a "midlife crisis" of some kind. He buys it, I think, but I'm not sure. Deep down inside I want to tell him what is stirring inside me, but I can't get the words to come out. He knows I want to tell him something. He wants to tell me something, too. He gives me a letter and tells me to read it later.
We then hug... not just any hug... but a real full-body embrace of male-to-male contact. I'm amazed that he's embracing me as much as I am him, much more than "normal". There is a moment, a brief second or two, when I feel so at peace, so complete in his arms. I forget where we are and don't seem to care. We continue rubbing and caressing each other and though we've done it before, this time seems more meaningful, more full of purpose, more loving as two great friends. I kiss his neck softly and whisper to him "I love you so much".
You know there is the time in a long hug when you try to sense if the other person has had enough and it's time to let go and so there is that quick "are we done here?" jerk and sensing from the other whether to go on or not... well, I was in that mode and he was sending signals that he wasn't done yet... so, with delight, we kept hugging. He knew I was in pain, and in his "straightness", this was his way of easing my pain... I felt so good, so whole, so alive in his arms!
But then, I started getting excited down under... it wasn't something that I wanted to happen, but it started to happen. As I realized it, I wanted to keep going, but I knew I couldn't... so I broke the hug and turned away for a second to gain my composure. I thanked him. He smiled. I put my hands around the back of his neck and asked him point blank: "Do you do this to anyone else?" meaning, "Do you embrace your other guy friends like this and make them crazy and all giddy inside?"
He answered, "No... just with you."
He must sense what he's doing to me, right?
I slap his head and tell him I've got to go to work... I watch him from behind as he goes to his car.
I grab my bag and sit in my car for a minute. I'm late for an appointment and I really don't care. I'm shaking all over. I try to regain my composure. I forget my cell phone. I return to the house and retrieve it. Coming back to the garage, I see my wife coming from the garden. I kiss her "goodbye" and drive off to my meeting.
All I can think of is the irony of the situation. I wonder what crazy life I'm living. I wonder what would have happened had she caught us in each other's arms. Nothing happened, right? It was just a friendship "hug". And yet the thought of hurting her made me check myself and slap me into "reality".
But another "reality" was that I really liked it! I kept thinking about him and what he must think of my "midlife crisis". Does he know? Do I tell? I know he is "straight"... and that for him, we are very close guy friends and nothing more... I've never done anything to lead him to think otherwise. I've been there for him in his time of need, and that is what his letter was expressing, his thanks for my sensitivity toward him.
You know... this really is a gay thing to talk about... and yet, isn't it wonderful to be gay and not feel guilty about talking about such a wonderful thing! In my world of limited male-to-male contact, this touch of heaven, this moment of exhileration, this taste of JOY is all I have...
Thursday, April 20, 2006
There's a face that we wear
In the cold light of day -
It's society's mark.
It's society's way.
And the truth is
That it's all a facade!
There's a face that we hide
Till the nighttime appears,
And what's hiding inside
Behind all of our fears,
Is our true self,
Locked inside the facade!
People in their own sweet way,
Like to add a coat of paint,
And be what they ain't!
That's how our little -
Game is played.
Livin' out a masquerade
Actin' a bizarre charade -
While playin' the Saint!
But there's one thing I know,
And I know it for sure,
This disease that we've got
Hast got no ready cure!
And I'm certain
Life is terribly hard -
When your life's a facade!
Look around you!
I have found
You cannot tell... By lookin' at the surface,
What's lurkin' there beneath it!
See that face!
Now, I'm prepared to bet you,
What you see's not what you get -
'Cause man's a master of deceit!
So, what is this sinister secret?
The lie he will tell you is true? -
It's that each man you meet
In the street
Isn't one man, but two!
If we're not one, but two,
Are we evil or good?
Do we walk the fine line -
That we'd cross if we could?
Are we waiting -
To break through the facade?
I know it wasn't written for the context of this blog, but it certainly applies to my life. I feel like I am living two lives, and at timesI feel not "one man, but two!"
Am I the faithful and devout LDS stalwart of the community or am I the earring-toting gayboy ready to hop in bed with your hottie son?
Am I the honorable returned missionary and inspirational Sunday School teacher, or am I the doubting believer who doesn't seem quite able to "fit" with my fellow Mormon Men?
Am I the devoted husband and lover to my best friend and wife, or am I the lusting creature who fantacizes of making love with "mankind"?
Am I the confident professional that has it all figured out, or the self-doubting and disturbed societal misfit, who hasn't got anything figured out?
Am I the fearless father or the fearful fool?
Am I the business man at a convention in San Francisco selling my professional services, or am I the sly one on the side cruising Castro streets seeking to know the other side?
Am I the man of convictions, or the man of doubts?
I am all of the above?... we all have these Jeckell & Hyde moments, but for the troubled souls that define themselves as I do in my profile, we are troubled indeed.
Now, nothing is new here. This is the struggle of life of everyone. This is the struggle that we chose to be a part of when we left the pre-existence to experience this mortal life! I'm not saying "oh poor me..."
There is something sad about this struggle. Though it really is ultimately a struggle of good vs. evil, and seeking true JOY, the struggle isn't chosen. There is good and evil on both sides, and JOY can be felt and realized on both sides! These desires for men, the attraction for the same-sex, is so strong and unrelenting, that when you refuse to cave, when you fight to resist, it just comes back even stronger.
That has been my experience. And for the most part, I'm so tired of the fight. I don't feel that strong anymore...
I remember one recent case in particular...
I had really been "good" (as Mormons define "good") for some time, keeping my thoughts and actions under control, and within the guidelines of "worthiness". I was on an assignment to take a group of young men and women to the temple to perform baptismal ordinances. I was feeling good about my "self-discipline" and the "control" I was in. I was the "master of my thoughts" and I thought that the Lord was really helping me to fight this internal battle. Though I still didn't feel worthy to participate in the ordinances (not from any external discipline, but internal self-punishment), I felt okay in entering the House of the Lord and chauffering the youth around, while letting other priesthood holders do the spiritual work itself.
After most if not all of the youth were dressed in their temple whites, and out of the dressing rooms, I was asked to be sure everyone was out of the Mens' room. As I entered the room, I saw no one. Then, I turned the corner and there coming toward me was the most beautiful male creature I'd ever seen before. He was maybe 19 or 20, sculpted athletic body of perfection, cute smile and drop-dead gorgeous, wrapped in a white towel, very low on his hips. He smiled at me and I melted right there on the spot. My knees got proverbially weak and all I could do was stare - and timidly smile back. He moved slowly passed me to his locker, sensing that I was taking in the view and liking it... and he didn't seem to mind. I quickly hid myself in my locker stall and started shaking...
First of all, this was the temple! I was trying so hard to fight temptation, and yet, here in the Lord's house, I was being tempted with inappropriate thoughts. I lusted after him! Though only with my eyes, I wanted to touch him, and caress those ripped contours. I couldn't believe this was happening to me! Why? What did I do? I wasn't seeking this? In fact, I was seeking just the opposite... I was seeking peace with who I was and that I was not going to be like "this". But, I was like "this". I didn't do anything. It just happened. My attraction for him and those like him was involuntary. I was convinced of that. I asked myself... do "normal" men go through this? If a "normal" man saw him in the same situation, would he have the same reaction I did, or would he say to himself... "Cool dude, he must work out!", or even yet would he say to himself... "looks like all my guys are out of here" and not even notice? I wonder what would have gone on in the head of a "normal" man, because for absolute certainty, I was shot through the heart with quivering guilty lust! And I knew this wasn't the reaction of a "normal" man.
It took me several minutes to gain enough control and exposure to exit my locker stall. I wanted to be sure he was dressed and gone...
I was so embarrassed that this happened. The self-loathing that followed was tremendous. I hated myself and all that encompassed me... the internal me... this "creature inside me, this Mr. Hyde" that would try to get out of me every now and then... I hated him! How could I be having these feelings? Where did they come from? Did other men have feelings about "young women" in the same way?
As I write this, it sounds like I'm a predator. I'm not. I don't go stalking anyone. I don't lurk in the bushes or locker rooms to find "young men" that turn my desires upside down... But, undeniably, there are those unsought occasions when BAM you are brought down to the reality that no matter how much you want to pray it away, you are attracted to men! And the secret is, deep down, you like it...
The truth be told... I liked the attraction. I still do! I love looking at beautiful men, athletic young men, "hotties"... they excite me and that attraction comes from inside me whether I resist it or not. Now, whether I linger on it is another matter. Whether I respond to it and try to do something about it to advance the feeling is another matter again.
So far I've been able to keep my "Mr. Hyde" deep inside me. But I feel like HE is getting stronger and desiring more time and action... and that scares me. What if something similar to the temple scenario plays out again, and this time he drops the towel in front of me and I don't resist his advances???
It's all a facade... Life is terribly hard - when your life's a facade!"
Am I playing the Saint?
Do I have a disease that has no cure?
What is my sinister secret?
Why do I feel such deceit?
This is more than temptation...
This is real...
Monday, April 17, 2006
In the course of the discussion on the reality of the resurrection, there was a question raised in jest about the states of being either "dead" or "alive", and did anyone know of any other alternative... One brother raised his hand and said... "well, I know that Miracle Max referred to the state of being "mostly dead" (referring of course to the movie "The Princess Bride").
Everyone laughed, but I sat there thinking that this is what I'm feeling... "mostly dead". I don't feel alive in either world I'm living in. I should count my blessings and realize the bounty and good things surrounding me (and I do), but when one is homosexual in his mind, and heterosexual in outer expressions, he ends up being alive in NEITHER world and mainly "mostly dead".
I want to be ALIVE! I want to embrace my wife and kids and totally engage them on every plane of exisitence possible... and give up the hidden mind game of thoughts that only I know exist regarding my gaydom. At the same time, I want to be ALIVE and engage those thoughts to feel whole and complete and "true" and honest with myself in ways I don't really even begin to comprehend of a homosexual life.
But, because I don't do either, and I fail to ACT in wholeness on either part, I fail to live... and so the term "mostly dead" has more meaning than maybe it should, definitely more than just a joke in a quorum meeting.
I know deep down that I don't engage my gay thoughts because of my core beliefs. They help me or make me be anchored in the heterosexual world. When I think of those beliefs, I want to stay in that world.
Christ wants us to be ALIVE! The life we've been given is there for us to enjoy. Joy, in the scriptural sense, has more meaning than happiness. The "Plan of Happiness" really should be called the "Plan of Joy".
But, how does one, such as I, begin to embrace life when I'm stuck on the fence being "mostly dead"?
more to come on "fence sitting"....
Saturday, April 15, 2006
I'm so alone...
I'm not sure that anyone will care what I have to say, and that is okay... as long as this anonymity of the Internet allows me the freedom to search my inner thoughts and feelings and come to some logical conclusion of what I'm going to do in my life from now on.
I find myself at a turning point, one that frightens me to the point of immobility. I am contemplating acting on thoughts and feelings I've faught to suppress my whole life. Thoughts that I've been "taught" to not even have.
As a starter, I guess some key background is required... I am an active and devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My membership in the LDS faith has shaped and molded my life from the beginning. It is a central core foundation of who I am. I believe in its teachings and in the principles of the Gospel and accept Christ as my Savior. I have a firm belief in the Plan of Happiness, in that God loves each of us, we are His children, and he wants us to have JOY! I have felt that JOY and have tasted the fruits of the Spirit and know for myself of spiritual truths. (As a point of reference only, I mention that I served an "honorable mission", served in two bishoprics as a 1st Counselor, served on the High Council, and as a Young Men's President).
Additionally, I am "happily" married to a wonderfully loving and beautiful woman for over two decades now, and we have been blessed with children that bring much JOY to our lives. Our temple marriage has brought us strength and unity as we've faced the struggles of everyday life. We live in a peaceful neighborhood with good friends and supportive neighbors around us.
I am gainfully employed and find JOY in my profession and it brings me satisfaction and financial security. We are fortunate to enjoy the bounties of life and search for ways to help those around us.
Okay... so "What's the point?" you may ask. "If your "ideal" life is so JOYFUL, then what's the ANGST?"
The angst is that over the course of the last few years, I have finally come to grips with the FACT that I am gay. I desire men. (Though I find it degrading and shallow in defining onself, on the Kinsey scale I would rank myself between a 4.5 and a 5). And this revelation, internal confirmation, personal awakening, or whatever you may want to call it, has begun to tear my world apart. I'm sure for some, there may be applause in the background, and maybe someday I will find JOY enough in my soul to applaud with you, but for now, at this moment, I feel anxiety, uncertainty, self-doubt, and confusion.
You may also ask... "Why did it take you so long?" I guess my answer to this is complicated. I have always known that I was different. My story isn't new or revealing. I felt astracized from other boys at an early age, I was shy and timid and pulled back from engaging with other boys, I hated competitive sports, my best friends were always girls etc. etc. None of that really bothered me. I didn't mind being a loner... I could sit for hours and draw and create things by myself and it didn't concern me that I wasn't outside playing with the other kids. You've heard it all before... But, as I was growing up, I didn't know what "gay" even was. It wasn't talked about and if I even had an idea about it, I knew that it was "bad" and so I shunned any feelings during my early adolescent years. It wasn't until later in junior high and high school that I felt things toward good looking guys, athletic guys, muscular guys, that I felt something was going on... I always chalked it up as "envy" and searched for ways to conceal these thoughts. My family teachings and core beliefs couldn't acccept any "sexual" connotation to these feelings. Sex was never talked about in my home. It was taboo and off limits...
It was easy for me to be a "worthy priesthood holder" as I didn't have problems with girls, porn, masturbation and the like. I may talk more about this later... but I was raised to be ready to serve a mission worthily and prepare for the temple. That was all that mattered. My lack of dating girls or lack of relating well with boys my own age didn't really matter. I was "going through a phase" and those things would work themselves out.
Serving a mission was very natural. By this time, I was worried about "feelings" I had for good-looking guys (and I found many guys to be good-looking), but I never acted on those feelings, so confronting them with the Bishop never happened as nothing ever happened. I prayed to the Lord fervently to keep those feelings hidden away during my mission and as I served "faithfully", he would bless me to have those feelings kept locked away. For the most part, this "deal" with the Lord worked and I was able to serve well and loved my mission! It was the first time that I started opening up, pealing away the layers of my hard shell and letting others inside me and opening up myself to others. I found I could relate to guys my age, I could be articulate and engaging with strangers, and I could be an effective teacher and tool in the Lord's hands. It was exciting to see me overcome many reservations and discover things about myself that I never knew before...
Toward the end of my mission, I discovered many other things as well, such as how to bond with a companion in true friendship, how to be truly affectionate with other young men my age in non-sexual ways, and how to give and receive LOVE and JOY in these relationships. (I undoubtedly will expand on this in another post).
This life-changing experience of male-bonding led me to teaching at the Missionary Training Center (MTC) as I returned to BYU. I so desperately sought more male-bonding experiences within the "bounds" of the Gospel setting. What more ideal place to achieve these goals than at the MTC as a teacher. Again, in my mind, there was nothing sexual in these desperate desires... only righteousness. That sounds really cheesy now, but that really is how I felt at the time. I felt my motives for being around the missionaries was all altruistic... I was there to serve them and make them the best missionaries possible. And I did! To the detriment of my studies, my social life, etc., I became married to the MTC and those missionaries and serve them I did! In so doing, I was praised by my teaching supervisors and was raised to the level of zone coordinator and received the ecclesiastical calling as a counselor in the Branch presidency of the mission group I was serving. Not only was I now employed at the MTC, spent all of my spare time there, but obviously, the Lord was pleased with my efforts and service or why else would I be called to serve there all day on Sunday as well, interviewing, training, counseling and motivating those missionaries? And that is how I felt.
I realize now, that I was desperately seeking validation for my "feelings" of male-bonding. I wanted to be with them not just spiritually, but also physically, cuddling, holding, hugging, and yes, even kissing... Though nothing ever happened, deep down I wanted it to happen. But, then, at that point, I didn't even understand these feelings, these overwhelming powerful desires. And everyone around me encouraged me on! To do more! To give more! And so I did...
In an amazing turn of events, I met a wonderful young woman who came to believe that I was the "one and only" for her. I felt it too, and I felt amazed that I was feeling a bonding with her. I really never had dated any other girls, and we really didn't date all that much either. We talked a lot and became friends, and in BYU fashion, became engaged and married within a few months.
As they say... the rest is history and we lived happily ever after.
Or did we?
Needless to say, those feelings of male-bonding over the course of the last few years have begun to reappear with a vengence! They are overcoming my every thought... and they are beginning to turn my world upside down. I have tried to suppress them, fast and pray them away, but they keep coming stronger and stronger...
Several events (that I'll reveal later) led to my conclusion that I was unmistakeably GAY! For the first time in my life, I accepted this as what it was... I loved men! I was attracted to men! I had "same gender attraction" or "gender confusion" as the church lately refers to it. This realization terrified me and yet liberated me at the same time. I felt disgust and excitement. I felt sinful and yet at peace. These feelings caused a withdrawl from my wife, which eventually led to a confession to her about these feelings. This was the end! It had to be! How could she keep me in her life at this point? Though I had destroyed her self-esteem, her sense of who she was, she has remained at my side... she has helped me through some amazing times to sort out all of these feelings. Our marriage (and intimacy) strengthened for a good while...
but now I feel like I'm losing control, like some battles were won, but the war is lost... and that I am now lost in a world of self-loathing, self-doubt, depression and confusion. It is so hard to keep fighting... I think of her and the children and that keeps me hanging on... ( I don't want to lose them and all that that entells for the eternities) but I'm finding I want to be tempted... I'm seeking to know the other side... my heart aches to know what it must be like to truly be loved...
by another man!