Tuesday, November 20, 2007

My Trail Guide called "LIFE"...

As John G-W compassionately pointed out in my last post, I have "complained" that there isn't a trail guide or Handbook of Instructions for married gay Mormons like myself and others, who are trying to be faithful to our covenants to our spouse and to our testimonies, while still very much being attracted to the same sex, and that we are very much left to our own resources and spirit to sort these things out. It has triggered some thoughts, particularly since my recent encounter with Tim (see previous post), including:

1. The Brethren don't know that I (or my type) exist. Or, they would like to wish that we don't exist. If they did know, then they would like to suggest that I just don't say anything and go back to where I was where things are easily brushed under the carpet and locked away in the deep compartments of my closet. Now, that may sound harsh, but I don't mean it to be. I am not expecting, nor desiring the Brethren to do anything for me regarding being a MOM MOHO, particularly at this point in my life. As I've stated before, I have a firm witness of their stewardship and mantle and I have no qualms about following them as Prophets, Seers and Revelators. Per my individual trail guide that I am making up as I go, I have chosen and will follow them and sustain them in their callings. They are doing the best they can with what they've been given. Obviously, if I've been able to hold together pretty successfully my wife and kids in a family unit of faithful devotion and love for 26 years then something is going right - and I'm sure that they would say: "Good job, Brother Beck! You're doing great building the Kingdom and strengthening your family. Keep doing the good things you're doing and don't dwell on that attraction stuff too much".

2. The Brethren counsel us to not dwell on or put undo attention to this issue, and to not associate with others who do put undo attention to this issue. I would suggest that some would counsel that this Blog does just the opposite, that I have allowed, by blogging for some 20 months now, myself to be placing a lot of attention on this issue. And I suggest, per my own individual trail guide that I am making up as I go, that this Blog has given me direction and guidance, counsel and support, a sustaining influence in times of complete angst beset by self-destructive thoughts and guilt. This community has brought me a sense of resource, a guidepost along my way, if you will, and returning to the world of never discussing this with anyone but myself inside my head would only turn me off the path to a point of destruction again. So, I argue that this Blog and its sustaining influence to "help me along the way" has been and remains a good thing. So, I will continue to blog.

3. Confiding in my wife and focusing on her as we continue to worth through the "coming out" experience has been a path into uncharted territory for me. I did so with no example before me. I had no knowledge of the MOHO world at that time. Other married gay Mormons weren't even on my radar screen at the time, or if they were, I only saw divorce as the answer to my problems. My one gay friend (with whom I became reacquainted through the Internet in googling "Gay Mormon") who encouraged me to be forthright and up front with my wife, as the only way forward (he speaking from his own experience) did so in hopes that I would find peace with myself and that this peace would lead to ending our marriage, as his had. That was the trail guide before me! At the time, I had no knowledge of "others like me" and all I saw was failed marriages leading to the next step of moving into a true and honest gay lifestyle. (BTW, no judgment here at all... I dreamed of what it would be like to be in a gay lifestyle and came to the conclusion that this was my path, my destiny, and I was willing to accept it). With this example before me, I reached the point where I had to "come out" to her or destroy myself. There was no other choice and I was willing to pay whatever price and consequence. Because I was so late in coming out to myself (45 years old), my life had already been well entrenched and well established in the path of a confused and struggling heterosexual marriage. Now nearly three years later, we are still struggling, and I've come to learn that these things take time. But I've also been surprised to discover that our marriage has become stronger, more united, and more intimate BECAUSE of my "coming out", not the opposite results that I was expecting. Unexpected blessings shockingly came to us! We have developed better communication skills, more physical bonding, and stronger ties emotionally to each other because of this path taken. She did not leave me, as I had predicted and as my friend had prognosticated. Though it was rough going and very painful, with a period that continues to this day of nearly destroying her self-worth and self-esteem, we looked to each other for strength and found it in each other's arms. Had I not taken this trail, I am convinced that our marriage would have ended. Because I took this trail expecting to end our marriage, I have strengthened it. Now, try to explain that one!

4. For a period of time after my "coming out", my angst settled down and I was able to concentrate on her and we celebrated a new "honeymoon period" of renewal in our marriage. I came to find that there was an attraction for her deep inside me that could not be extinguished, though difficult to always be there for her, but now there was a spirit of cooperation and understanding between us, and for a while, my desires for men in my life diminished. This trail I was and am taking was and is good.

5. But then, the volcano within me, my desires to be with men, to be loved and held by men, to have close male friends - returned, and with an errupting vengeance. That is when I started to blog and I have continued now over 20 months to determine how to keep my marital path and covenants in check while still desiring and craving male associations in my life. I have always been affectionate and have a "need" for affection and closeness, particularly from men. On my mission I discovered the joy of male bonding that allowed me to cross cultural lines and embrace a freedom of expression between men that became a goal post from then on in my life. Some may say that I've never moved on from that "culturally sinful" behavior of my mission. I say, for me, it established a fulfillment and sense of joy that I have not found anywhere else, and I desire it and need it to feel "complete" and "balanced" and "honest" with myself. Thus, in my uncharted path, I have sought these experiences of intense brotherhood, to rekindle the feelings of belonging, acceptance, comfort and peace. I feel so different and isolated from even the brothers in this community when I use such words - for they are foreign and strange to what should become a 'sexual' relationship.

6. I have chosen to not go down the path of 'sexual' relationships with men. I have sought and been very successful at staying away from hard core pornography and masturbation. This is my path and my choice. Following the spirit through these choices has been very helpful along the way.

7. But, my desires to be held by a man, to be in a platonic relationship with a man have never, ever diminished. In fact, of recent, these desires have INCREASED! And two young men, at just the right time in my life, came along and appeared on my trail when I needed them. First "Will" (who was the reason for my truly coming to the self-realization that I am emphatically a core "scale 5" GAY man) befriended me in a way that no one had since my mission and brought a bonding that I began to recrave in earnest. It was like I was dead, and was now coming alive again inside myself. And then two years later came "Tim", who as of late, is still there in my life, walking occasionally alongside me on this trail I'm on. These young men have shown me complete and full brotherly love in a way that I don't even begin to phathom or witness in others. I, in turn, become a different person around them: affectionate, warm, caring, loving... I like the person that I become when I am with them. I really like that person that I become! And I ask again: Is this a bad thing?

8. With Will, my affection began to run me scared - full force in the direction of a cliff. I was going to jump off the deep end and I knew it - and I knew through the Spirit that I had to confess to my wife to bring me back to solid ground. So, instead of jumping off the cliff into a gay lifestyle, the direction where my path and emotions and thoughts and desires were leading me to, I chose to stop and place "boundaries" between me and Will. I pulled back. I distanced myself from him. And my angst returned, along with my guilt, my self-destructive patterns, and my beating-myself-up cycle. I reluctantly, though resolutely, find myself in that pattern to this day!

9. So as good as these boundaries are on my trail, they lead me to confusion and angst and guilt and self-doubts. I have distanced myself from Tim as well, and yet every few months we are drawn back together in some amazing crossing-of-paths experience of bonding, of spiritual communication, of physical affection, of brotherly love. Some have called me on this and warned me that I should concentrate ALL my focus on my wife. I know in many ways this is a true and wise warning. But over the course of these last three years, my path has not become more black and white. Instead, it has fallen into a gray and cloudy existence where choices aren't so crisp and exact and obvious.

10. I love my wife. I love my kids. I love the Gospel. I have a firm witness of the spirit working within me. I do not want to hurt them or destroy them. I have thus, maintained my "boundaries" and am firm in holding to them.

11. I have that Spirit to help me as a guide along the way.The Spirit, however, did NOT tell me to stay away from Tim last week. I needed to be there at that time and in that place to lift and strengthen him and I was able to do so in a real and amazing way. In turn, he has fulfilled a "need" in me and I feel "good" and "whole" and "complete" when he holds me in his arms. He knows he fulfills this need of mine (though we do not speak about it - he instinctively just does it) and is a willing participant to see that my needs are met. I can't explain it in any other way. And I'll be DAMNED if anyone sees fit to take this away from me!!!

12. Selfish as it may seem, I need to have male-to-male bonding in my life to keep some sense of sanity. On my chosen path (and it is a conscientious choice) I have not had sex with a man. Though my fantasy life may have desired it, craved for it, wondered about it, contemplated it, I have not chosen that path and am seeking constant peace and reassurance that this is the right path for me. However, to rob me of knowing, feeling, sensing and craving male-to-male bonding of a non-sexual nature (particularly for one in my situation and circumstance) because of "cultural reasons" or because I am married, is complete and total hog-wash! I refuse to be placed in those limitations. For, for MY path, maybe not yours, such relationships, such brotherhood brings me therapeutic sanity, personal strength, and inner peace to an otherwise pathetic life of unfortunate events.

This is MY trail. I don't recommend it to anyone. (I've thought once of writing a book when I've outgrown my gay adolescence in hopes of helping others that might be seeking a "trail guide" in their lives - though I quickly squash that idea because I really don't wish this trail on anyone - for the overriding lesson is that we are all unique and must ultimately find our own way through our own experiences). But, I continue to seek outside advice through the means of this blog because I can't talk to anyone else about this. I seek contrary points of view, not just "slaps on the back". I beg for "slaps on the head" as warning voices in my life to be careful as I walk along the precipice edge. I see and recognize the warning signs from the Brethren and from you fellow bloggers. I see and recognize the warning voice of the Spirit.

But I also feel and know the warmth of the spirit when I choose to remain faithful to my covenants and vows, as well as have some sense of indescribable bonding with my fellow brothers.

Is that too much to ask? Am I playing with fire? Am I asking for trouble? Do I want my cake and eat it too? You're damn right I do! And I'm not going to be made to feel GUILTY about it anymore!

There, John... I did it. I didn't tear myself down! How about that?


J G-W said...

Woo hoo! You go, boy!

Of course this is your own trail guide! But others will learn from it, including people who are not gay and/or not mixed-orientation-married.

GeckoMan said...

This is a good rough draft of your 'Trail Guide for Beck.'

I concur with point #3, that being willing to let someone travel their own path, by their own choice and without any manipulation on our part, is a manifestation of true love. Your taking the chance to loose you wife by coming out to her was a great sign of respect and love for her.

For the purpose of clarifying your 'Trail Guide,' I would ask if either Will or Tim were made aware by you of your SGA? You say that Tim instinctively knows your needs, and so I am left to wonder if you have come out to him. If you have, what sort of things did you say to this 'straight' young man? If you have not, why is it that he would be so reciprocal in his affection back to you? Either way, your elucidation of this relationship might be helpful in establishing the platonic nature of your trail friendships.

Over the last five years wherever I have lived, I have purposefully sought out a close male friend to share conversation and feelings with. My wife supports me in this, understanding my needs. I typically take time to be a lunch buddy, where we get together a couple times a month. After years of such get-togethers, I've come to know the spirit and life details of several men, feel connected and have grown in admiration of their faith and journey. Typically I have not come out to these friends; however, I'm at a point here and now to do so with my latest friend. I'm sure when I do, I'll talk about it on my blog.

Happy Trails, brother.

Beck said...

Thanks JGW for your vote of confidence. I don't declare that I know what I'm doing, but I'm going to try to feel less likely to beat myself over it.

If someone can learn along my way, (I was going to say "stumbling and misguided though it may be", but I've decided I'm not going to say that) all the better!

Beck said...

GECKO asked:

1. I would ask if either Will or Tim were made aware by you of your SGA?

No, not specifically, though I've given lots of hints.

2. You say that Tim instinctively knows your needs, and so I am left to wonder if you have come out to him.

No, I have not, and yet, yes, he is open to my "needs" for affection from him. He knows that I have very strong feelings for him.

3. If you have not, why is it that he would be so reciprocal in his affection back to you?

I have been asked that by many of my fellow MOHOs who seem to be always on the suspicious side of Tim, even declaring that he "must be gay, he just doesn't know it". I am convinced that he is not. I am convinced that he is truly open and loving in character and is not afraid of genuine affection between friends. He is actively interested in girls and never talks about other guys. Whether I am more of an older brother / father figure to him that makes him freer with his expressions of love for me, I do not know. I don't talk about it with him. I don't see the need to "explore" this part of our relationship in dialog form. I am happy that we just ARE. I'm afraid that drawing attention to our affection will spoil the spontaneous nature of it. I'm just glad we have it and it remains affectionate, yet platonic in nature.