Thursday, July 17, 2008

As plain as the nose on your face...

The family rented the movie "Penelope" this week. It was a fun, light flick that my kids enjoyed. This is not a recommendation of this silly fairy tale movie, but there was a message that hit home that I'm sure the screenwriter, director, and producer never intended.

In my eyes, I saw the message to be that I, this confused gay Mormon boy, must come to terms with myself and love me for who I am, without desiring to be someone else, or to be changed from what I have no control over, or to be worried about what others see in me or think of me. I saw her pig-snout face as a symbol of my homosexuality... something that is a part of me as much as the nose on my face.

I have come to realize that I really do like myself as I am (I'm still working on loving myself - a long way to go there...), but I'm still very fearful of what others see in me or think of me. How can I live a productive, full, fulfilled life, fully "vibrating" (as Elbow says), if I'm constantly worried about what others may think if they really knew "all" about me. It's no big deal. I'm still me. I'm still who I am.

But the image of the photo above, reacting to the revelation of my "truth" speaks volumes as to how fearful I still am of what others may think.

I don't know how to get past this... and move on... and live.


Abelard Enigma said...

I don't know how to get past this... and move on... and live.

The problem is - your fears not irrational, they are, in fact, valid to a certain degree. If you made it known that you like guys, some people would look down upon you, some would fear you (or fear you being around their children), some would wonder what else you've been hiding.

Now, I like to believe that a lot of people would accept you, perhaps even respect you for the decisions you've made. But, in our homophobic church culture, would they be willing to speak out against others who look at you unfavorably? Would they stand up for you if they heard someone utter an inappropriate comment behind your back? Or, would their own fears of being labeled a 'homosexual enabler' keep them in the closet?

Valid questions. Now we just need one of us to be brave enough to test the waters to see just how valid these fears are - you first!

Beck said...

Okay... so the real point is this:

DIRECTED AT THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN BRAVE ENOUGH TO "COME OUT" and still maintain friendships, family connections, church relationships, community associations etc.

What were your reactions? Were you accepted? Was it no big deal? Or were the reactions like the photo in this post of disgust and revoltion? Were the questions Abelard asks valid or unfounded?

Are these fears irrational or appropriate? Or is it all imaginary?

Dichotomy said...

I have always lived my life in fear of what others thought of me. A few years ago, I occasionally got highlights in my hair, and at one point, I decided that I wanted to lighten all my hair just a bit (it's normally dark brown--I wanted to go to light brown with blonde-ish highlights). My sister, who went to beauty school but isn't licensed, did the job in my step-mother's basement beauty salon.

I'm not sure if she used too strong a solution, or left it on too long, or what, but when she took the cap off, my hair was ORANGE. It had gone beyond the light brown stage to that considerably unattractive orange-ish hue that brown hair goes to when it gets incompletely bleached. I looked at it, horrified, and then in a moment of daring, decided "What the heck. It's only hair. Let's go all the way." She re-applied the bleach and we took it as blonde as we could get it. My wife hated it.

A few days later Sunday rolled around and I realized that I was going to have to endure the scrutiny of the ward. Worse, I was called that morning and asked to substitute for the ward chorister in Sacrament Meeting, so I would be up on the stand, leading the music, with the eyes of the entire ward focused on me.

I steeled myself, and went to church, and did my thing. I got some comments that were surprisingly mean, considering that they came from the Lord's Elect. I also got a lot of stares, a few pointed fingers, and a few behind-the-back whispers.

I got similar responses at work, with one man even asking if I was planning to move to San Francisco (an oblique gay reference that in hindsight, now that I've come to terms with my homosexuality, was really kind of funny.)

But when it came right down to it, I realized that none of this really bothered me like I thought it would. I actually felt saddened by the small-mindedness that some of these people exhibited, but I felt bad for them a lot more than I felt bad for me.

I admitted to myself that I was gay two-and-a-half weeks ago. I came out to my wife last week and my sister yesterday. Today I sent an email to my parents and tonight my other brothers and sisters will find out.

I find that I'm more and more anxious to be out and authentic and really and truly "me", and though there is a bit of apprehension with each of these revelations, I also become more and more assured that so long as I remain a good person, and remain convinced and determined that my sexual orientation has absolutely no bearing on my worth as a person, I will remain virtually immune to the pointed fingers and pointed barbs that poor, small, withered, prejudiced souls may chose to fling at me.

Dichotomy said...

to: abelard re: testing the waters...

I don't know if I'll be first. My wife and kids will be affected by my coming out to the ward and the world, and I feel like I need to allow them some time to adjust to the situation before I dump a new burden on them, but I hope to be able to stand up in testimony meeting in a few months and say:

"Good morning, brothers and sisters. I have a testimony of the Gospel and of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I know that He loves me because He let me know that He loves me, through the Spirit, when I was struggling with the fact that I am gay..."

Samantha said...

Choose someone you love--Tim?

Tell him.

Reassure him.

Ask him to be a good friend and support as you work toward becoming what the Lord intends for you.

Remind him that you're still you, and you love him--and that's not scary.

See what happens.

Beck said...

DICHOTOMY: Thanks for commenting. I just read your blog and am completely fascinated with your story and how quickly things are developing and changing for you. As a married-with-children gay Mormon man, I can certainly relate with what you are feeling.

I've always wanted to shock the ward and dye my hair completely blond. Who knows, I may still do so! That story is so relevant to my feelings. In the end, who cares what others think - and yet I know that they do and every situation is unique and we have to do it in our own way.

I admire your example, your courage and your vision. Keep moving forward!

Beck said...

SAM: I've thought many, many times of opening up to Tim. I really have wanted to in the past. He's evolved into his new life and marriage and I've evolved away from him a bit. I haven't seen him since the funeral where he so caringly comforted me in a such a special way. I know he'll understand. I know it...

I just need to occasion to do it.

I also need my wife's permission... and motivations, and I'm not sure I can articulate them clearly enough for her to understand. Not talking about the proverbial elephant in the room is the status quo. Wanting to "come out" to someone else is going to take a shift between us as well, as it will mean exposing her to others as well. That may be good, they may not...

A lot to contemplate. Why should I even try? Because, I can't find peace in living as I'm living...

Damon said...

Hi Beck,

Sorry this is long...

I can comment on this somewhat. I came out as a gay man, open to all that might include about 2 and a half years ago. Of course Beck as you and others like you consider coming out there are many other things to think of because of your families.

When I started coming out I had an overwhelming fear of rejection. I had lived with it most of my life.

I began telling friends first. I chose those who I thought would be most accepting. I've managed with most of my friends in great success.

My best friend, who I met on my mission (we were companions) told me that he loved me anyway, that it didn't change anything, that he wished for something different for me but that he would be there to love and support me.

I had one friend who really struggled with how to be a good friend to me but not appear to support my choice to be open to my homosexuality. We've worked to overcome those issues and are still good friends.

I began the same process in telling my family. I have a sister-in law that I am extremely close with. I chose to tell her first. She struggled with it much more than I ever would have imagined. She was concerned I was entering a realm where relationship commitment didn't exist, where I would be exposed to diseases and where I would never be happy.

Later, she would call me and tell me that if this was really the choice I had made that I couldn't be around her children and her family. My worst fears had just come true. I told her I didn't agree with her choice to exclude me from her life, but that I would respect it as I expected her to respect my decisions about my life and my right to make them. I was crushed, but I knew what my worse case scenarios were when I made this decision...this was one of them. I was completely devastated and for a while it derailed my plan to continue telling my family.

A month later she called me and apologized, told me she loved me, that she was wrong and that I was welcome in her home anytime. We haven't been as close since, but I know she loves me and I know the struggle she had personally to be able to accept me in the end.

My other siblings and my parents handled it better than my sister-in law and better than I expected. All with basically the same idea that they would prefer a different path for me, but they loved me anyway. My mother worries about my safety and how people will treat me. My father still struggles with it. But with typical male sentiment he mostly ignores my sexuality. Deep down I think he believes if I had one good night in the sack with a woman it would "cure" me.

When I came out I also went inactive. That choice is always bitter-sweet for me. I know the Gospel of Jesus Christ is true and although the gospel is perfect it's members aren't.I wasn't sure that I could handle the judgements from members. I also knew that once I found a man I loved and wanted to share my life with that I would excommunicated for physical expressions of that love. Odd as it may seem, I didn't and don't want to be excommunicated. The easiest way to ensure that is to remain inactive.

Since that time I have had several in depth converasations with my Bishops over the course of several months. They have shown me love. As far as I know the general membership in my area aren't aware of my choices, so I can only guess as to how they'd respond.

The few members who do know I am gay have responded better than I would have hoped.

Before I stopped going to Church the subject of homosexuality becaome a main topic of discussion during an Elders Quorum lesson. I was extremely surprised by the feelings of hate and disdain that were expressed during that meeting. That event was a critical element in my decision not to remain active. Sometimes living among the Saints of Zion can be the hardest challenge of all.

This is my experience. Truth is, you never can tell how anyone or any group is going ito respond. I would expect that some areas of the country would be much more welcoming.

I served my mission in souther california. All of the members from my mission that I stay in contact with, still love me. Some support me and some love me anyway.


Beck said...

DAMON: Thanks for sharing your story. This helps. I can see how you can't predict the reaction, and that I hope the fear of the reaction is worse than the actual reaction. I admire you as you've worked through the acceptance of your family.

In the end, though, I have no desire to leave the church, to leave my wife and kids, to leave my current situation... and so it's complicated. Maybe starting with friends and working from there. Or, maybe I just dye my hair like Dichotomy... :)

Silver said...

I just have a few close and trusted friends that know about this. At least as far as I know. I've taken risks in the last three years, attending meetings, writing my blog, putting my real name out there at meetings and on internet closed groups. I wonder some days who really knows. I wonder who my Bishop has told and if my other priesthood leaders know and just don't approach me. It bugs me sometimes that I have to hide it but, I am firmly convinced that I should continue to hide it; at least for the welfare of my wife and kids.

That being said; why is it important at all to be "out"? Why does the world need to know I dig guys? Is it not a personal preference? Should it not be shared in safe places with other men and women who "have a clue"?

The public at large still does a really lousy job of dealing with news like this. They just get it all messy and out of wack. Do I want to trust the idiots out there that surround me with something so important to me? NO WAY!

I'm happy to stay in my closet for now. Now let me qualify - I'm not alone in here. The closet has gotten bigger. We added on some space, blew out some walls, put in some windows and invited some good trusted friends over. My closet isn't all that bad and the people I let in here understand me. I'm kinda glad that it's still private and I just don't want just any dude off the street checking out my underwear drawer! He might be like that guy in your picture Beck! Sorta pointing his finger and saying negative stuff and all...