Friday, September 28, 2007

Insensitive and Desensitized...

After some sharp discussions on another blog, I’ve been thinking about how I’ve changed in the last 18 months since coming to this community. As I’ve come to know Beck, I have also come to know and accept parts of me that were always there, but I refused to recognize.

And through this process of recognizing the other “me”, I have found that as I attempt to blend into one (as so many comments have encouraged me to do) I become more edgy, more willing to push the limits, more rebellious, even more questioning of authority and the straight line (some may call this apostasy as I’ve blogged about before).

Additionally, I’ve become maybe more insensitive to some points-of-view and desensitized to what may have seemed offensive to me just a couple of years ago.

Regarding visual media, you need to know that in our household we watch no television. We haven’t for years. We’ve done this not in an authoritative manner with our children, but by example and the policy has naturally evolved without even declaring a “policy”. If the kids want to watch standard television – they can. There is no family rule against it. There is no moratorium. But what is really interesting (and mind you our kids are teenagers) they have chosen not to. By replacing television with other activities, our kids don’t even seem to notice that they’re missing anything. We never have had cable (yes, I know I’m missing out on great programs) and we use our flat screen as a monitor for DVDs. With the sensitivities (mainly of my wife) we watch DVDs that are kid-approved and prophet-appropriate.

For me, it is a matter of time. Between work, family, work, church and work, there just isn’t time for television or any of its cable counterparts. For me, television is very insipid yet addicting. I can slip into a hotel room on a business trip and flip the box on and flip through channels aimlessly not watching lame-anything, just flipping and flipping – mainly because I can, not because I’m searching for anything in particular.

That hasn’t stopped me from occasionally slipping onto the Internet to gaze at a photo collection of good looking guys – clothed for the most part - in strictly adhered to, non-x-rated sites. I’ve justified (maybe wrongfully) this behavior as a way of “coming to terms” with my attraction issues and bringing my two halves together. I’ve justified that since such sites are not “porn rated” that I’m not viewing pornography – and I’ve been able to keep my self-imposed limits in tact, just like my television watching.

Now some may call me a prude for having such limits, while others might point out that I’m addicted to what they may call “soft porn”. I’m too close to the forest to see the trees right now and note objectively the difference, so this post is an attempt for me to step back and try to see what I’m doing to myself.

From recent blogging discussions, I’ve been forced to face the fact that maybe I’m insensitive to others by posting images I find that I don’t think are necessarily very erotic in nature, but more artsy or beautiful. And since offense is taken, it makes me wonder if I’ve allowed myself to become so desensitized that I don’t see the offensiveness of my actions. Have I slipped down that slope of degradation so much that I don’t notice it anymore? Have I allowed myself to interpret my search for noticing “beautiful men” as comforting and artistic instead of the perversion that others see?

It reminds me of Rodin’s exhibit at BYU years ago where there was such a scandal over allowing a sculpture of a naked man to be seen on the Lord’s campus. What is art? What is beauty? These questions are beyond my weak philosophical mind to debate here. Just as with pornography – I can say that I know it when I see it. And the beauty of the male form, with or without clothes, is still something that I cherish and admire. (It’s a cultural thing – I know, for example, that in southern Europe very prominent church members are appalled at the hangup we Americans have over nudity). I hope we all can see the difference and not fall into the trap of trying to cover up Michelangelo’s David with a speedo!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Who do you think I am?

Who am I?

You really don’t know who I am, do you?

I mean, if I don’t know who I am, how can you know, right?

What I share here in this blog is a persona that I’ve allowed to be expressed that otherwise has little if any expression. I have given him a name – “Beck” – and I allow you to know what I want you to know about him.

Over time, these last 18 months, I’ve come to know “Beck” myself. He is real. He has thoughts and feelings. He is loving and kind. He believes deeply in connecting with people. He wants to reach out and touch and embrace and become close. He feels deeply about the Spirit and the feelings that come with convictions of the Spirit. He’s also very much attracted to men. And he doesn’t want that to change. He really likes loving the thought of loving men. He loves men! Beck is “out”. Beck meets fellow MOHOs. Beck seeks to be free of the closet. Beck wants to live open. Beck wants to be alive!

And then there is me. I am also here. I exist. I am real. I have a name – but I don’t share that with you – I don’t allow you to know much about me. You know a little. I’m a devoted family man. I’m a loving husband and father, a professional businessman, a devout religious man (so I’d like to think), faithful to my testimony of the Gospel and my membership in the Church. I am very much in the closet. My motives are good, I feel, as I want to protect my family, and keep them safe and do what I feel is best in caring for and loving them.

As time has gone by, I find myself not sure when I wake up whether I’m “Beck” or whether I’m me. Who am I? I feel like I’m becoming a split personality. I’m categorizing things and allowing Beck to blog, permitting Beck to develop friendships with gay friends, including MOHOs, and these friends become very close and very attached and mean a lot, and yet, who do these friends know and love – me or Beck? I tolerate Beck to take that second or third look of the young gorgeous guy walking down the street, fantasizing about potential gay relationships, and I endure Beck’s request to “find the perfect image of the perfect man”, justifying that it really is okay as long as it stays in the PG-13 rating.

I don’t do those things… Beck does! I’m a devoted husband and father, remember?

Beck wants long hair. Beck wants to rebel. Beck wants to fight. I find myself allowing him to have more and more say.

What’s going on here? I feel like I’m allowing my alter-ego to take hold of me, to be a bigger and bigger part of me. Sometimes he wants to stand up and scream in Priesthood Meeting that he’s gay! Other times, he fantasizes wondering if Tim (you remember Tim, right?) will show up at his door one day and say that he knows about me and is ready to have a relationship – even if that relationship consists of him being “kept” by me secretly.

Sometimes, I’m very happy being Beck. Other times I’m ashamed of Beck and want to keep him hidden and in the dark shadows of my closet. Sometimes I think I’m going schizophrenic – certifiably crazy.

Who, the hell, do you think you know here? Who do you think is asking these questions? Is there a way for both of us to exist? Or are we destined to be locked away in some secure padded cell?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

How to stir up the quiet closet?

This tender experience from last Sunday has given me a great sense of hope and peace. I've been thinking a lot about it. I am grateful that if such a discussion and open expression of love occurred because I needed to hear it at that particular time in this particular situation - then all the more do I feel an incredible indebtedness and sense of love for my Father who sees what each of us needs as we are prepared to receive it.

But now, my thoughts have migrated to the thought that I need to be more outspoken and not so hidden - I need to be seen as who I am and not be so concerned about what others think of me, including my fellow priesthood brethren. I need to be a face of a gay man, who believes fully in the Gospel, who is a faithful husband and father - and still very much gay.

I ended up having a subsequent conversation with one of my quorum brothers. He had recently become familiar with the current changes of the attitudes of the Brethren and we continued a dialogue on how things are changing and that soon there may be an asterisk or clarification note on the Miracle of Forgiveness that confirms the current teachings of the Brethren regarding SSA and the distinction of attraction and temptation verses sinful behavior as noted by Pres. Kimball. Just to have such a conversation with a normal straight ward member was very refreshing. I got a bit passionate in our conversation and when we finished, I wondered what he thought of me - meaning - did I get too vocal that he's questioning why I'm so "interested" in the topic?
In the end, I'm back inside myself. It is very, very quiet and lonely in this closet. I can't be seen or heard as I dwell here. I can't help the perception of my other fellow MOHOs as I stay in here.

So, question of the day: Short of passing out the new pamphlet at the chapel door, how can someone like me, from my quiet closet, do more to increase the understanding and love and decrease the prejudice and shunning influence and disdain of the church status quo membership of the Wasatch Front for their fellow brothers and sisters who very much deal with SSA and are striving to do so the best ways they know how?

Monday, September 17, 2007

An unexpected small miracle...

I wrote this yesterday. It's long, but if you make it through it, I'd be very interested in your comments:

Today I participated in and witnessed a mighty miracle. For some of you, this may be “too little, too late” but for me it was tremendously significant and brings me a great and enormous sense of strength and personal hope for the future, for my personal future, for the future of the Church, for the future of all MOHOs.

This entry may be long, and you may not make your way through it all… That is okay for I write today, not so much for you, but for myself, for me to remember the feelings I had and the miracle that I was a part of. In a real sense I saw the enlightenment from on-high descending to inspire and uplift, to motivate and bring hope for the future generations of this Church!

All year I have dreaded the day that Lesson 17 of SWK be taught in Priesthood. In anticipation of this year’s instruction, knowing Pres. Kimball’s past teachings on the abhorrence of homosexuality, I was fearful of what may still be included in this “official” church publication. Sure enough, page 181 came glaring out at me. I knew that sometime in September that lesson would be taught and I had fear of what my fellow High Priests would have to say about the nature of homosexuality. Last week was supposed to be that lesson, but they switched for some reason and today ended up being the feared lesson.

I came to church highly charged and prepared for what may come and I told myself that I wasn’t going to say anything, but observe what was said by my quorum brothers. Needless to say, my quorum is prototypical of those along the Wasatch Front – about 45 to 50 active brothers attend each week, most being over 60, grandfathers mainly, many great-grandfathers as well, most empty nesters, most seasoned in the gospel having been bishops, stake leaders, mission presidents. These are a very knowledgeable and very conservative Utah group.

Before settling into the lesson, I was asked by a father of one of my home teaching families to assist him in giving his wife a blessing. We quickly ran home to administer to her (which was a sweet experience in and of itself) and then I hurried back to the meeting hoping to have not “missed the juicy parts” of the lesson. Because I returned late, the lesson was already underway, so I slipped into the rear of the chapel, having missed the setup to the instructor having a brother read from page 181 and then asking “So what about homosexuality?”

“Good!” I told myself… “Perfect timing!”

The discussion started treading along the lines of conventional wisdom (how it is a sin and a choice and should be condemned etc. and how the “gay agenda” of propaganda should be fought against such things as “gay marriage”). I could have predicted it. I was disappointed that the instructor was going to leave it at that…

And then, a small miracle occurred. A highly respected older brother raised his hand and humbly and lovingly started offering the most kind and gentle confirmation of love he feels for his grandsons who are gay. He went on to say that he doesn’t think it is a matter of choice and that these young men are wonderful and loving young men and should be given the chance to have love in their lives. Though he doesn’t understand their attractions, they don’t stop him from loving them and wanting them to be happy, even in their search for companionship.

I was floored right then and there! My heart jumped out of my chest. The instructor proceeded to argue that it is a choice (not just a choice of actively pursuing homosexual relations, but orientation, too) and that participating in any form of homosexuality is a grievous sin. A few predictable “stalwart” brothers were all “here, here” and “to hell with them” kind of attitudes.

I couldn’t take it! I raised my hand and in the calmest but direct voice asked the instructor: Did you choose to be heterosexual?” (I wanted to burst out and say: “Don’t you realize that I’m one of those you are labeling as a sinner? Don’t you realize that I’m GAY?”) My heart was swelling but I bit my tongue.

There was silence in the room for a few seconds. The instructor couldn’t believe I asked such a question. He stammered and finally said something to the affect that we are here to create eternal families… but he understood my point as his face was one of fluster and confusion.

And then the unexpected miracle of enlightenment enveloped the room. Ten hands shot in the air! For the next half hour there was the most warm and kind and loving response. One brother talked about how the Church has gone out of their way to help those who have suffered the affects of divorce due to adultery and how we rally around them when this is widely known and accepted. But, he pointed out, when it comes to SSA, we not only don’t rally, we shun, we push away, we discriminate and show openly our bias, disdain and prejudice against such feelings and such persons – and that such members are ostracized to the point of leaving the church and we say “good riddance” under our collective breaths. He called us to repentance and told us that if ever there was the case for increased love, for seeking out the one, for fellowshipping and bringing into the fold, this is the one!

And then another brother spoke up about how the Brethren are softening their stance in helping those with SSA to be loved and understood and that we should do the same and show increased support instead of hatred and disgust.

By this point, the instructor was fully frustrated and visibly irritated! You could tell he didn’t want this tolerance-speak to go on any further and wanted to move on with the “real point of the lesson” which was unchaste living is a sin – but no one disagreed with that point and hands still wanted to be heard.

Another brother spoke of the upcoming Evergreen Conference at the Joseph Smith Building and that General Authorities will be speaking there and that there is something to this “understanding process” we need to learn and not be afraid of.

And another brother, a social worker by profession, said that he didn’t feel it was a choice, nor that this SSA could be overcome in this life and that we should not judge anyone for having such feelings.

And finally another brother, a previous bishop, said… “We all know the stance of the Church against homosexual relations and I don’t need to repeat that. But this discussion began when Brother “Y” spoke of reaching out in love and support for his grandsons with this orientation. Brother “X” spoke of reaching out to the men in our ward that we may not even know about (at that point I started visually crying) who need our tenderness and kindness and acceptance in helping them to feel loved and needed and valued. That is the point of this lesson!”

By now I was bawling. I felt such compassion from the Spirit. Fortunately I was on the back row and I rested my head on the bench in front of me and tried to gain my composure. I don’t remember much about what was said next, as my thoughts went to the following:

1) If these old conservative Wasatch Front codgers of men could have this much love and compassion as their comments were showing (I would say about half were in this camp) then what tremendous HOPE FOR THE FUTURE I started feeling for the changes coming WITHIN the church. (NOTE: Jason Lockhart on Northern Lights addressed this in his recent post. When I read his post, I couldn’t see it happening anytime soon – I couldn’t see the winds of change in attitude, the softening of hearts, the erasing of years of prejudice. But I did see it. I did see it!)

2) And if even these few old buggers were that far along down this road, then how much we have hope in looking forward to the rising generation!

After the meeting, and after I regained my composure, I went up to each of the brothers who spoke out and personally shook their hands and thanked them for the courage they showed in voicing their love for their fellow brothers. One brother, a good-ol-boy from Wyoming cowboy stock, noted that if he had said twenty years ago in a priesthood meeting in Wyoming what he said today, he would have been physically removed from the church and thrown out the door! We chuckled and I pointed out that that comment shows me in and of itself just how far we’ve come.

Is this a small miracle? Maybe not. For me, however, it was. Or at least it was a Nephite “tender mercy” from the Lord for me. I wasn’t expecting this kind of reaction. I needed to hear it. I was warmed from head to toe to know that such feelings exist among my own Wasatch Front brethren and I’m encouraged to continue the dialogue and to improve the perception that we are ALL brothers, and that if ever there is a brother that needs our “seeking out the one” with increased love, this, our dear SSA brother, is the one!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Happiness vs. Joy

Happiness is working two all-nighters this week to put a proposal together and landing the job and gaining a new client.... Joy is holding your young daughter in your lap and watching her fall asleep in your arms, quietly and unknowingly reminding you of what really matters!

Happiness is struggling patiently to teach your teenage daughter the intricacies of driving with standard transmission... Joy is receiving a hug of excitement from said teenage daughter when she finally masters the stick shift!

Happiness is spending the night out with your teenage son on a father-son macho outing of sorts and watching videos that Mom for sure wouldn't like (the pre-qualification for a good movie)... Joy is when you non-communicative teenage son (who usually feels grunts and groans are sufficient verbal skills) voluntarily says "Thanks, Dad" in audible clearly articulated sounds!

Happiness is watching your eldest go off to college her freshman year - a scared, insecure, timid, confused little girl... Joy is watching your eldest daughter return to college this year - a confident, in-control-of-the-situation, woman, whose eye-opening experiences of living away from home support have brought new understanding of gratitude for that home support!

Happiness is stumbling across an old picture of you and your wife pre-engagement (and contemplating all the thoughts and feelings and emotions of that period of time conjured up in that image)... Joy is still enjoying cuddling with her 26 years later!

Happiness is being grateful for a supportive wife and loving family... Joy is realizing that despite all of the pain and heartache and struggles and angst of being in a mixed-oriented marriage, there are no regrets and you would do it all over again!

is knowing the Gospel and the purpose and anchor it serves in your life... Joy is sharing that knowledge with new converts and feeling an overwhelming spiritual confirmation that what you are sharing and feeling is TRUE!

Happiness is coming to terms finally, without self-hate and maybe some measure of less personal angst, with being gay and still very much so attracted to men... Joy is... well, one may still working on that one...

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Sub-conscience wants to come out?

I know this is a stupid subject, but hang in there with me. I don't know why, but I'm growing my hair out. Now before you go: "yuck" or "gross", here me out.

I mentioned this to one of the MOHOs and he astutely pointed that maybe I was growing longer hair as a physical sign of my sub-conscience wanting to "come out" or to be "noticed" or to be "different". I've thought about that and wonder if there is some truth to that.

Maybe the reasons I'm doing this are because:

a) I'm still immature and adolescent in many of my attitudes and this is a reflection of that.

b) I'm going through a mid-life crisis, realizing that I'm not getting any younger, and I better flaunt it while I've still got it!

c) I'm beginning to go gray and when I keep my hair short, the gray really shows more than when I keep it longer - it covers the gray naturally. (NOTE: Of course, I'd really like to dye my hair a natural sandy blond (not the mortician or used-car-salesman-in-the-plaid-jacket scary "Just For Men" dark brown that is so creepy and "revolting" as my wife would say). I'm already dark sandy blond - anything wrong with a few highlights?

d) I have been straight-laced all my life and it's about time I rebelled against something, even if I'm not quite sure what it is.

e) I refuse to "fit in" with the establishment of the High Priest Quorum and this is my way of saying "no".

f) My wife likes it (as long as it doesn't get super long).

g) I never was a fashion trendy guy, always out of step with the current styles, (though thick long healthy hair pulled back nicely into a pony tail on a good looking guy can always be in style - though I also love short hair on a good looking guy, too, in fact I just like good looking guys :)).

g) OR, I have been closeted for so long that this is my way of saying "Hey, world! Look at me! I'm Beck, buried deep down inside and I'm gay and I'm tired of being in here and I want to come out!"

I don't know. What do you think?

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Still the Jail Keeper...

I commented on Playasinmar's blog the following:

I am the jail keeper. I hold the key. It's just the way it is. I'm in prison and so is my secret. Deal with it...

But, as I become more "known" in this community, I'm sure it will be only a matter of time before someone opens the door to expose me curled up in the dark corner crevices.

For the most part, I hope when that day comes, I'll be okay with that. I wish it didn't have to be this way. Can anyone see how it can be any other way? *sigh*

John G-W responded as follows:

I hate how discussions of the closet sometimes end up seeming so guilt-inducing. There's nothing particularly righteous about coming out of the closet, and nothing cowardly or wicked about staying in the closet. They're both just coping mechanisms, plain and simple.But I notice that when folks like Beck or Forester who are still in the closet to everybody but their on-line friends post, they almost seem apologetic about being in the closet. I'm not sure who they should feel apologetic to...

Why am I so apologetic for being in the closet? How come I feel guilty in this community for admitting so and not being "liberated" or "true to myself" or "open and free". Am I somehow cheating? Am I not GAY enough if I'm not willing to come out? I mean, am I trying to have it both ways -living a heterosexual life out there, and a homosexual life in here? Am I somehow unworthy of both communities? Unfaithful to both communities? Am I a half-breed? If I'm not truly "out" then I must surely be short-circuiting my life on both sides, right?

I hate the dishonesty argument with a passion! For some, that is what it comes down to - that us closet dwellers are perpetually dishonest with ourselves. I never purposefully deceived my wife, and have become more honest with her as I've become honest with myself - but that doesn't mean I must now be "out". So, in a sense, I've brought her in with me. And for now we are coping - and for the most part doing quite well. When the time is right (as it had to be for me to bring her in to this world) for other family, friends, etc. to be brought in, or for me to come out - I will. But, why do I feel so apologetic for not doing so now? For somehow not measuring up or in some way disappointing more liberated MOHOs.

Is there something inherently wrong with the way those of us who are still "in the closet" are living our lives?

L questioned why I don't come out more to my Bishop and gain strength by being "out" to priesthood leaders. I ask myself that as well. But I also ask - why should I? Is it necessary? Is it worth the risk of being misunderstood? What if I'm labeled or ostracized or shunned? What if my membership record gets a big red "H" on it to brand me for future reference for maybe not so sympathetic or inspired leadership to come...


Maybe I should come "out" and would receive further love and comfort and support and counsel...

Am I just a coward? Does this come down to fear? Am I the perpetual fence-sitter?

This community has given me that stepping stone to begin the self-realization process and the "coming out" process. For that I am grateful. Some dear friends hold keys to my secret. If they so choose, they can "out" me at any time. I appreciate their friendship and trust that they will respect my confidences until I am ready... if ever...

I am trying to be as honest as I can with the circumstances given me. I'm not 23 and in college anymore. And when I was, the world was a very different place. There cannot be a comparison of one verses the other.

I look at a dear lady who was recently baptized at the age of 80. She was a "closeted Mormon" in the neighborhood for years. And when the time was right, she made the decision to come out of the closet and join the church. I don't judge her for taking the time necessary to take that step. I don't look at those "lost years" as years of wasted opportunities. I just am grateful that she is now happy where she is.

One thing I have learned from all of this is that I am a slow learner... So give me some time. I'm still coping! I'm trying to deal with this as best I can, in my timetable with my circumstances. That must frustrate some, but that's too bad. I think I've made a hell-uv-a-lot of progress in the last couple years. And I've got a hell-uv-a-lot of road to go...

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Back to School...

I went to "Back to School" night last evening. Man, going back into the high school again really makes me remember tons of feelings of my own. I remember the great teachers that truly inspired me and influenced me in my subsequent decisions of life. I also remember the bad ones who were a waste of time. In one sense I have great appreciation for some of the teachers who really do try daily to "teach". I also have a great animosity for some of the teachers who are there simply "putting in the time". I guess that's true for most professions - it's just obvious with this particular one. You can see it so quickly in a "Back to School" night.

I came home and my son was really struggling with his College Algebra homework. Being the "math whiz" that I am not, but that he thinks that I am (since I have an engineering degree) I eagerly sat down at the table excited to bestow my wisdom onto the next generation... But I got stumped on a few problems and one concept in particular and it bugged me. He could tell I was frustrated. I WAS frustrated! There was no textbook, nor examples - just a list of problems. He could see how I was getting frustrated. I WAS FRUSTRATED! I hated to see his realization that his " Old Man" couldn't help him and he'd have to go in during lunch and actually talk to the teacher.

It bugged me so much that I couldn't sleep. Typically I fall asleep thinking of my angst and my own problems of "the issue" (that is the subject of this blog) and reasoning things out and talking to the Lord about them - or sometimes feeling less inspired and dropping off into a repeat same-gender fantasy of some sort - when last night I had to work out the math problem. I couldn't sleep until I knew the answer! I had to have the answer! And the answer had to be true and right! It was for my son's sake, not mine, and I had to know...

And then it came to me - it was clear - I propped myself up in bed and wrote the solution to the problem in the air above my head. It worked! I slipped quietly downstairs and pulled out his assignment and put pencil to paper so that I wouldn't forget. It was 3AM. I was so excited that "inspiration" had come. I finally went to sleep - and I had no feelings of angstiness or fantasies. All other "issues" seemed to disappear.

Morals of this so profound little story:

1. High school can be really fun, but for the most part, is not a life I would like to repeat.

2. Your "Old Man" knows most of the answers, but not all. Be patient with him as he's trying to do his best.

3. The best inspiration comes at 3AM in the morning.

4. There's nothing like a good math problem to clear the mind of all other "problems" in life.

5. Sometimes our answers come after really sweating over them, and working them out ourselves - without a textbook or example problems - and coming to our own realizations with a little help or inspiration along the way (how does it go: "97% sweat, 3% inspiration"?)

6. Is there a corollary here to how we learn from our eternal "Old Man"?

Happy new school year for those of you returning to the books... Glad it's you and not me!