Why is it that we as Americans, and especially as Mormon Americans (for the most part - and I include Canadians and US in this discussion) have such a hang up about male-to-male "touching"?
I find it a bit intriguing that L and Abelard's recent efforts to define guidelines for MOHOs on what is appropriate in gay Mormon relations have hit a nerve regarding the appropriateness of touching (hugging, handholding, kissing etc.). Don't get me wrong - I am the poster MOHO when it comes to needing such guidelines (just read my recent posts). And, at the same time the recent "encounter" between Max Power and John, has been so refreshing and sweet and exciting to read. There is a huge part of me that is saying: "GO FOR IT! SHOW US HOW IT IS DONE!" as well as a small, almost insignificant part of me that is saying: "PLEASE DON'T DO IT!"
Can we MOHOs have such a thing as proper touching between each other? Why are we so hung-up on things that should be naturally expressed?
I've admitted that I'm a touchy-feely guy. I crave it! I NEED IT! And yet, in this conservative, anal society and culture we live in, there seems to be such unnecessary cultural boundaries that keep us from being able to express those needs, with willing partners.
As I've traveled and lived outside the United States, I've been keenly made aware of how free other cultures are in their expressions of affection toward friends, platonic or romantic. I've lived in southern Europe and traveled it extensively and have come to appreciate and LOVE the ability of that culture to be open in their friendship touching. I have come to intimately understand the power and meaning and importance of having such touching in my life and not being "afraid" to express such things in a physical manner. I have "bonded" with men of the southern European cultural mindset and persuasion, and they have helped me to see the fallacy of my American cultural hangups.
I would venture to say that if young adults, active in the Church, living in Europe, could comprehend the dialogue we are having on "appropriate touching", they would laugh it off as American cultural folly. And mind you, these wouldn't be the young adults of the European culture at large, but of the active Mormon mentality!
The truth in this matter - of what is appropriate in our human needs for bonding - must span cultural boundaries. God is not an North American middle-class male! And if the Church is to be truly for everyone, where do cultural mindsets fit in to such discussions? What is truth in this matter?
Recently, I traveled through parts of South Asia. Astonishingly, even shockingly, I was impressed at how that "culture" expresses man-to-man touching in such an open physical way. I noted numerous instances where men would be walking arm-in-arm, hand-in-hand, hugging and kissing openly with each other. I would notice that with woman-to-woman as well. (What was interesting was to note the lack of physical contact whatsoever between man and woman, married or otherwise!)
I saw young guys and old holding hands and being physical with each other a lot. I know that homosexuality is frowned upon in this culture, so these expressions of affection were obviously viewed as between JUST FRIENDS. And that is the kind of affection I'm talking about.
I was walking along a riverfront that had a promenade with a marble wall railing along the water's edge. This promenade was at least a mile long. And there sat two young guys on that wall railing just inches from each other. They had all the room in the world to spread out and yet they chose to be 1" not even from each other. I took their picture because I wanted to capture the profound imagine in my mind of these two guys.
I was at a Hindu temple and palace where I found myself amazed at three guys holding hands together. I followed them around and observed their camaraderie and spirit of friendship and love between each other. They weren't asking whether it was appropriate or not, or what a pamphlet of guidelines might tell them to do or not do, they just did what came natural and culturally acceptable between male friends.
Now, I realize the gayness of our MOHO situation and the religiosity of our MOHO situation add a wrinkle to these expressions of touch as romantic arousal can so easily enter into the picture (as I've personally experienced), but I suggest that as Americans as a whole (and I recognize I'm stereotyping) we are way too up tight about such natural displays of affection between ourselves and we associate everything within the realm of a sexual context. Why do we do this? Why as a people, as a culture, do we limit ourselves and turn everything into a "sexual" expression? Why have we distorted something that is natural and beautiful and intimate and personal in person-to-person bonding with an "evil" connotation? Why?
I have tried to live my life free of this attitude and mentality - sometimes with great success and acceptance - other times with revulsion and disgust. I struggle with being compartmentalized and labeled because of "cultural" mindsets.
I believe the Lord would have us be open in our expressions of affection with each other. Paul said it best:
"Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love, in honour, preferring one another."
-- Romans 12:10
Let us not be afraid to meet each other and express our brotherly love with each other in ways that are good and honorable and natural - without the unnecessary restraints of cultural mindsets and let's greet each other with a "kiss".
Let us celebrate the natural wonderment of two MOHOs meeting and expressing open affection toward each other!
Let us find the appropriate middle ground that the Lord would have us find in sharing "brotherly love" for each other!