Saturday, April 22, 2006

LONGING FOR AFFECTION

This "fotosearch" image speaks volumes of my lifelong angst about male-to-male affection... I've been part of the couple on the left in a very real way, walking down the streets of a major European city with my best friend, arm-in-arm around our waists, in a public display of male-coupling. It was the most free and amazing period of my life! I say "was", because that WAS a long time ago... and how I long for those days, how I long for that feeling of JOY and WHOLENESS that I felt then.

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...


6 comments:

-L- said...

Hi, Beck. I linked to your blog. I hope you don't mind. You are off to a rocking start, my friend!

What a great post! It's so interesting to read other similarly situated people's blogs and see how many things I have in common. So much of what you wrote I can give examples from my life that exactly parallel.

I'm glad you are addressing these issues, but I will throw in my opinion that a blog isn't going to be particularly helpful without professional counseling. I really enjoy blogging, but I think it's only one part in my journey. I also do some e-mail support groups, web sites, I have a counselor, and I talk to my bishop (who is way above average as far as bishops go!). My bishop graciously subsidizes my counseling (not all the way, but most). Feel free to e-mail me anytime. keepchanging@gmail.com

I hope you find the happiness, affection, and peace you are looking for.

Dave Walter said...

Beck,

It's good that you got all that off your chest. None of it is pathetic, and nothing you've experienced is either out of the ordinary or indicative of any flaw on your part.

I think you need to seek guidance from a gay-friendly therapist, but I also think it's obvious what you need to do: You have to come out.

Your desire to love a man and be loved by a man is perfectly natural and wholly in tune with who you are at your core. You should love and be loved by a man.

Yes, that means your life will change. Yes, that means your marriage may end. As terrifying as that may be for you, I believe it's practically inevitable. A "fresh start" may be necessary for you to be able to pursue the deep contentment and happiness to which you're entitled.

I had an acquaintance -- a tightly closeted conservative elected official -- who was outed by the news media. Everyone was shocked, and his marriage and political career came to an abrupt end. It was a horrendous time for him, but he got through it, and became comfortable, happy, and at peace with the new gay life that he was finally able to lead.

Coming out is an incredibly simple thing to do, no matter what one's life circumstances are. Getting over the fear and anxiety of coming out is the hard thing.

Beck said...

-L-:

Of course I don't mind you linking! I'm thrilled and honored... Now, if I could figure out to link back to yours I would. Any suggestions?

I'm glad to know that I'm not alone, for the majority of the time it feels as if I am.

I know my angst will not be handled by blogging alone. Counseling scares me and I don't know how to seek out the correct kind.

Dave:

How does one go about finding the "right" kind of counseling?

Thanks for validating my needs. I still have my angst and that can be good to re-evaluate things on both sides as long as I don't allow it to become self-destructive. I do feel like I've come to the point of not hating these feelings anymore, which is a good step.

A fresh start? Sounds like jumping off an ocean cliff! I don't swim very well. Is there someone there to rescue me? Obviously, I've still got the fear and anxiety to overcome before jumping out.

But this articulation is helping to ease that anxiety, and to know that complete strangers actually care enough about my pathetic situation to even comment is so strengthening!

meg said...

Being your true self is not pathetic. It's the most courageous thing one can do in life. May we all be as courageous as you in your liberating experience.

Good luck with everything!

Dave Walter said...

How does one go about finding the "right" kind of counseling?

It depends where you live. If it's a fairly big city, there may be pscyhotherapy referrals available through the gay community center or a similar organization. Otherwise, pull out the Yellow Pages and make some calls. It me be difficult to pick up the phone -- it certainly was for me -- but get over your discomfort and keep in mind that psychotherapists are there to help, not judge.

I do feel like I've come to the point of not hating these feelings anymore, which is a good step.

Yes, a very good step.

A fresh start? Sounds like jumping off an ocean cliff! I don't swim very well. Is there someone there to rescue me? Obviously, I've still got the fear and anxiety to overcome before jumping out.

That's where the therapist comes in handy. But keep in mind that it's not a complete fresh start; it's only a new beginning as it pertains to your gay self. A big part of your life will change, but it's not as if everything will change.

But this articulation is helping to ease that anxiety, and to know that complete strangers actually care enough about my pathetic situation to even comment is so strengthening!

I'm glad we can be here for you. But you've got to stop thinking of yourself as pathetic. Or at least try. I was telling my therapist just a couple of weeks ago how pathetic I think it is that I, a 50-year-old, have to see a therapist for treatment of anxiety. Of course, she scolded me (gently) for thinking that way.

Stenar said...
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