Monday, February 05, 2007

Slow learners...

On Thrasius's blog there is a very interesting dialog going on in the comment section of his most recent post. It has triggered much thought and internal debate about my own situation, the timing of my coming "out" to myself, and the coming "out" to my wife so long into our marriage.

For those who are in the 19-25 college age crowd, it may be difficult to remember what it was like 20 to 25 years ago when "us old timers" were in college. NOTE: I can't even imagine what it must have been like before my time (but then we're not talking the "black-n-white" days, those were the "dark ages").

Back then (in my world):

1. "Gay" and "Mormon" did not coexist whatsoever. You did not mention those terms together as a "gay Mormon". There was no such thing. Such a person did not exist. If you were "gay" or "homosexual", then you were excommunicated and were NOT a member of the Lord's Church and Kingdom.

2. SSA / SGA did not exist as a term used by anyone, let alone the Church.

3. Being a homosexual was preached from the pulpit at BYU as a flat-out sin. - not the sexual act, mind you, but just the thoughts, attractions and feelings.

4. General authorities showed very low tolerance levels for "homosexuals". The Miracle of Forgiveness was the authority point of view. "In Quiet Desperation" would never have been thought of being sold, let alone published by Deseret Book.

5. Elder Packer's talks dwelt on the negativity and horrificness (is that a word?) of homosexuality, to the point of scaring me to death that I could be such a person. There was no Elder Oaks showing compassion for the struggle of those with this "issue".

6. You did not see compassionate articles in the Ensign of being sensitive to the attractions one feels, let alone even of "loving the sinner but hating the sin". Nor did you ever hear that "one need not repent for the attractions one feels". Even being "tempted" by such feelings was condemned and despised with disgust and disdain.

7. To not be married in the temple soon after your mission (6 months to a year max) was not honoring your priesthood and shirking your duty as a priesthood holder. My mission president's closing interview to me was to commit me to finding a girl to marry within 6 months - I know I'm not unique with this - this was the norm! To not marry because you had homosexual tendencies was counter to the Lord's plans and therefore not right. Every man was to marry!

8. Society as a whole was just beginning to wake up and be more tolerant of the gay community. The Church was decades behind this curve.

9. The media did not discuss this openly as topics of Oscar-nominated movies, etc. Gays were stashed neatly away in San Francisco - far from my world and my reality.

10. There were no two-father families / no gay-straight alliances / gay-clubs / pride parades (at least in Utah). And as common as these things are today, Cog skillfully points out the hatred and intolerance of some organizations still out there in the politics of Utah trying to keep this state back to the days of my adolescence. (NOTE: To have Cog not be recognized as the legal father of his children knowing what I know of his devotion and passion for their upbringing - is a moral sin! - another subject, but I just had to get that out there).

So, I felt at the time (when I returned from my mission with very strong gay feelings inseminated from very personal encounters with other college-age men who were very "open" with their feelings of male-to-male "brotherhood" bonding) that I was not "gay". I couldn't be gay. Gay meant things that I just wasn't. I was a good priesthood holder. I was a good missionary. I was a great MTC teacher. I was a temple-attending faithful member of a Church that I loved. So, there was no way that I was "gay". I wasn't the evil person, the sinner, the disgusting individual that the general authorities and other church leaders, and BYU presidents preached about. So, in my mind, with my very naive and innocent understanding of my isolated world - I was NOT going to be anything like the individuals they described.

And yet, I was so "filled with the spirit" as I loved my guy-friends from my mission, or as I "loved" my missionaries in the MTC passionately. That behavior of mine was awarded, applauded, lauded with praise and adoration! I was "promoted" into a branch presidency position of MTC leadership and had not only educational but ecclesiastical authority and access to hundreds of missionaries. I wasn't a gay man. I was a "spiritual man" who happened to be passionately affectionate, loving, and connected with fellow missionaries - all in the spirit of teaching the "brotherhood of true love" that I learned on my mission with my "friends".

So when it was time to marry, I wasn't hiding these activities from my wife. In fact, she was engaging in them with me, attending the same church meetings, gatherings, teaching opportunities, temple sessions, testimony meetings etc. that I was at the MTC. I invited her to be a part of this very special life I found and had carved out for myself. She admired my passion, sensitivity, compassion, and love for the missionaries and was drawn to me because of these very qualities. We discussed my obsession of being around guys, of my "relationship" with my European friends, and my passion to be around, touch, love and bond with the elders. I did not hide any of this from her. I was very open about it and told her that "this was who I was and I was happiest when I lost my inhibitions around men". But I never said I was "gay". I couldn't. For you see, in those days, one just didn't go there. It was a "hidden" topic - not discussed, not even contemplated.

And we got married. It was what we were supposed to do. We loved each other. She accepted me. I loved that she loved this part of me. And for the majority of our time together, it has been wonderful, full of amazing times and cherished devotion. We've also had tons of stress and my desires have added to those levels of stress - and this has made me very sorry to make such a wonderful woman endure this experience with me. But she does it willingly.

I realize now that she was convinced that in time, as we grew together, my passions for male bonding would diminish and for a time they really did. But it was a time of "delayed denial". As the world opened this dialog up into the media, as the Church opened up its understanding of attraction / temptation not being something to repent of, as I began to open up to myself, as I allowed myself to become attached to other guys again, I realized that this decades-long characteristic of who I was was not changing, was not going away, was not subsiding - in fact was resurging. And thus, I could no longer live in complete denial to myself. I could no longer silence myself!!!!!

It was only then, when I was sure, that I was "honest" with her and two decades later came "out" to her. As I've said before - I was terrified to do so. I was convinced that she was going to kick me out of the house and divorce me and that my life (my perfect Mormon life) would be ruined for eternity! But I did it. And I'm glad I did. I don't need judgment from anyone on why it took so long for me to come to this point! It just did! In my upbringing, in my world, in my circle of understanding, in my very tenacious hold on denying the inevitable, it just took this long!

So I judge no one for choosing to reveal such things or not to one's spouse. In fact, I honor and applaud Loyalist and Mormon Enigma for the decisions they've made this past week. I honor all who find themselves in a "mixed-orientation" marriage who are struggling to be as honest as possible in their own circumstances. And I honor the "new generation" of "why would I want to even put myself through this crap?" for your enlightenment at our expense. As much as I encourage it, I do not judge why or why not one has not done so. For no one was in such self-denial as I was. It took me a year - a full year - to piece together all of my past, to write it down, and organize events, ideas, feelings that came together. At first, the finished puzzle horrified me - again from the negative teachings I was bombarded with. And it took me time to process and understand that I was who I was, I am who I am, and there is nothing wrong with that. I did nothing wrong!

Since then we've had the discussions of "why do you still love me?" or "why are you still wanting to be married?" etc. And our answer is always: "There is no one else for me but you." or "I just do!"

It is still a very sore subject. We don't discuss it very often. We've tried counseling, but to a limited degree of success. We've read things together - but mainly, dwelling on it causes too much hurt and pain and - frankly, she's not ready still to fully comprehend my feelings and frustrations - and I'd rather wait until she is ready. Thus, I blog....

Until we truly have an "open dialog", I will try to show her the respect she deserves of a husband, trying to come out of the dark ages, who is attempting to love her because "he just does".

It's a different world. It's becoming more and more different every day. Every year the acceptance level (inside and out of the Church) increases logarithmically. In most ways, this is good. It gives more options, more opportunities, more choices, more voices than ever before - and certainly more than just the negative ones of my college years.

So dear understanding reader... whoever you are... be patient with us old-timers. We're slow learners but ever as passionate! :-)


Loyalist (with defects) said...

i do tip my hat in your honored direction dear friend.

thank you.

Thrasius said...

This post is fantastic! Thanks for sharing your thoughts, which bring me so much hope for the future. The church has become so much more understanding, and I hope that with time, it will not be as hostile to those who are struggling with these often unbearable pains. Your blog also increases my testimony of our church as a true and living church. I realize how much the leaders are human, and they are subject to the biases and social mores of their lifetime experiences...but they too seek to learn and do what is best for the Lord's church. Don't think that I don't understand repression at all. I mean, I did spend nearly my whole life so far ignorning the fact that I am attracted to guys, so I understand the mindset that you can get in where you just don't allow yourself to think about yourself in a certain way. Anyway, I'm so glad that we have people like you to look up to and we can learn from your experience and hopefully help to make the world a better place for us and for the rising generation of SSA church members.
thanks for sharing your thoughts and for your friendship.

Enduring Eric said...

You hit the nail on the head, different times call for different measures. It will be interesting to see how this topic continues to evolve over time and what the next generation does with it when getting married.

-L- said...

I'm delighted to see all you guys who got married with the best possible intentions without discussing your homosexuality (for whatever reason) now being so successful in your marriages despite that.

If we believe the statistics (and I frankly don't), your marriage is practically a miracle! The fact that you've been able to stick together, to love one another despite it all, to work through the difficult communication and stay with it... is a rare aberration! But, as I said, I don't buy that. I think you made it happen because of the great guy that you are, committed and loving, and the same can be said of your wife.

Thanks for this post and your great example.

iovan said...

We try to do what we think is best under the circumstances, with the current knowledge that we have, don't we. If we are honestly doing our best, then there's no use looking back and thinking we should have done it differently.

When circumstances change or when we gain more knowledge, then it is good to consider whether we also need to adjust our way of thinking or the way we handle things. If we don't, we'll stop learning.

Your ability to be flexible and open to new situations and attitudes is an example. Thanks for a great post!

SG said...

Once again, Beck, you've described your situation that nearly parallels mine, although mine would have to include actually acting out with others. However, like you, and like others I've recently become acquainted with in this marvelous blogosphere, there are plenty of us who completely love our wives and families and will do everything it takes to keep that eternal unit together, including denying what many would describe as our natural selves. So be it. I don't believe the statistics either.

One of our prophets said (was it President Kimball) that when two (striving to be - my addition)righteous people work together to succeed in a marriage, they can succeed.

Bless you for sharing these thoughts with us, friend!

Beck said...

Thank you everyone for your comments. I feel like this last week has been a revealing time for many.

As 'L' points out, the statistics are against us. I like that! I've always been an anomaly and don't see the point in conforming even with this aspect of my life.

Long live the delusional, naive, gay married Mormons who think they can beat the odds!

Loyalist (with defects) said...

"Long live the delusional, naive, gay married Mormons who think they can beat the odds!"

can we ammend the word "think" to "know"?

Either way, what a wonderful statment.

Beck - the pic on this post is slightly creepy (though it gets the point across). However, I think I prefer the pics from past posts :-)

Elbow said...

I freakin' love you, man. You are wise and considerate. You are so precious to your family, and your wife of course loves you and wants you to be with her always. You are prized by your kids, and have a great relationship You're life is pretty good. Thanks for posting. You're my blog hero of the day.

santorio said...

one more facet to the dilemma of the mormon boy who has entertained the thought that he might be gay but is not sure, whether 30 years ago or today.

being the faithful mormon, his dating experiences have been limited to a single light kiss at the end of the 4th or 5th date [it helps that he does not find this particularly stimulating nor does he have fantasies of greater intimacy].

he thinks that once he's married he will experience and enjoy straight sex. then, what a disappointing honeymoon. i have known one of these end in annulment, but most stumble on. after all, many straight couples take a while to get the sex thing figured out. then months or years later, stranded on the road to tarsus, he sees the light: i'm gay; what do i do now?

Beck said...

LOYALIST: I'm not sure that I'm ready to insert the word "know" just yet into that phrase. I think I'm doing okay just saying "think". But thanks for the encouragement. As for the photo... yeah - pretty gross, but at times the silence we put ourselves through in living in the closet is "pretty gross" too!

Beck said...

ELBOW: What do you mean I'm your "blog hero for the day", man? I thought I was your "all time blog hero"!!! :)

P.S. Just to let you know publicly - I feel the same about you!