Thursday, August 07, 2008

Still a disconnect...

Just a few quotes in my recent search for understanding "authenticity". I still don't get it, but I'm trying. I struggling with where that which I know to be true from personal experimentation in my life fits into that which is part of the "core self", and how to live in harmony with both, even if currently the two are not resonating together.

"When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be."

-- Lao Tzu

"Secrets aren't lies... they're simply the truth when you're ready to tell it."

-- From a website to remain nameless.

"The unexamined life is not worth living."

-- Socrates

"Authenticity refers to the truthfulness of origins, attributions, commitments, sincerity, devotion and intentions."

-- Wikipedia

"Finding authenticity is not an event, but a life-long process of emerging from ourselves as the music around and within us changes, and we continue to seek resonance. Far from discouraging, this realization brings with it the realistic hope that we will many times experience the miracle of rebirth. This process is terrifying at times, and it is exhilarating."

-- Bob McCue

"And now as I said concerning faith - faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true... And now, behold, because ye have tried the experiment and planted the seed, and it swelleth and sprouteth and beginneth to grow, ye must needs know that the seed is good. And now, behold, is your knowledge perfect? Yea, your knowledge is perfect in that thing, and your faith is dormant; and this because you know, for ye know that the word hath swelled your souls, and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand."

-- Alma 32:21. 33, 34

"... if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?"

-- Alma 5:26

It still seems that one who is "authentic" (and this seems to be used heavily and constantly by the gay community in arguing the need for all gay people to "come out" and to "not stay in the closet" and to leave those notions of outside influences aside) is saying that one is "honest with himself". I've read many a "testimony" by those who have abandoned the past and the cobwebs of their closets and vibrated and resonated in a new awakening of "self", and I'm fascinated and intrigued by these stories and I want to know more and to understand what they are experiencing... but I still have a major disconnect. Maybe that disconnect will always be there as I stay in my closet.

I haven't been honest with myself for most of my life. However, to be honest, I am trying to be honest now, even if I still withhold certain things about myself to those around me. I am struggling with the idea that authenticity requires negating that which I "know" to be true (and by that, all that goes with that in the Mormon sense of personal revelation and testimony). If I can't do that, does that mean I will never be honest with my true self, and thus never authentic? Should authenticity be a goal that I should strive for? Shouldn't my authentic self be one that is centered on my "self" resonating with God?

I'm pretty ignorant when it comes to philosophy... something that has never crossed my plate - a gap or another disconnect in my education.

I'm interested in it though and trying to learn what I'm missing... I see life from my Mormon boy box. Some may see this as very limiting. I have felt it many times to be very illuminating, with real examples of connection to my core self and my God.

Help me to know what I'm missing.
I still need more time. I want to understand what others see that I can't see...


Abelard Enigma said...

I once quoted the words to a song on my blog

I'm through accepting limits
on who I have to be
whether they're from ex-gays
or from the queer community!
If Jesus is my savior
and the spirit is my guide
I have to serve the Lord
with what I've got inside!

Beck said...

Thank you Abe. I don't know that it helps me to connect to what I feel is a disconnect in my education, but I connect with what you are saying here.

Dichotomy said...

It seems like you're mostly struggling with the disparity between the standard GLBT definition of "authenticity" and your personal testimony. I'm not convinced that the definition that the gay community uses is the best one.

Being "out" and "proud" and whatever other terms you want to apply might indeed be being authentic to one facet of yourself, but if you're ignoring other aspects, you're not being authentic to your whole self.

I don't think I'm saying anything that you didn't already say here, though...

You said: I am struggling with the idea that authenticity requires negating that which I "know" to be true. I refuse to believe that it does.

I believe that the "life-long process" of finding authenticity may involve a redefinition of what I currently "know" to be true, but it will probably also involve redefining what is required to be authentic to the gay part of me that's put me in such a conundrum.

I did some cursory research on an artist who was brought to my attention yesterday (thanks Abelard!). I found this quote from his Wikipedia entry interesting:

Although it is possible that he was sexually active with local youths, it is equally possible that, like many gay men in this period, he sublimated his sexuality into romantic friendships, and into his art.

Can I be "authentic" to my gay self and my Mormon self by "submlimating" my sexuality into some other pursuit? Is it possible to live a full, happy life as a gay person without ever having intimate relations with a man by directing sexual energy into some creative act? I don't know, but it's gotten me thinking...

Philip said...


I don't think being authentic has to do with always doing what feels good no what the consequences; or not using your brain; or not considering others.

If being authentic was just about thing - being gay - then maybe the it would be true but being authentic is about many things.

For instance, being authentic to me has to do with being a husband, father, a moral man, my beliefs and many other things.

Maybe to be authentic you have to reconcile the differences between what you have grown up believing and what you know inside to be true. That authenticity is about not having a conflict between who you want to be and who you are. I would think a person who feels authentic is at peace.

For instance, except at the very beginning, when it comes to my children I have never doubted myself. I have never had a conflict with being gay and a parent. I have never questioned my ability to be a good father despite growing up in a world that taught me that gay men were child molesters.

However, when it comes to my marriage I have always doubted myself. To this day I still struggle with the conflict between being gay and a husband. I have never been able to take it for granted that I am a good husband even though in many ways I know I am.

So simultaneously I feel authentic as a gay parent but not as a gay husband of a straight woman.

Why I am at peace with one but not the other?

Because I am a nice guy and nice guys do not harm the ones they love.

And because getting married was a mistake but, instead of taking responsibility and correcting the mistake, I decided to live with the situation. It was a mistake because I married the wrong gender and my need for intimacy with a man always leaves me having to chose between denying myself or hurting her. No matter what I do one or both of us gets hurt.

Having children was not a mistake. No matter what I do being a parent is not going to hurt my being gay and being gay is not going to hurt my being a parent. Whatever conflict I had about being an openly gay father were resolved long ago.

So I can be a good guy with my children and there is peace.

But I cannot be a good guy with my wife because of the potential for harm so there is no peace.

But I have to say over the years I have learned how to better cope with my situation so the conflict is not as bad as before.


Philip said...

What I was trying to say with that last sentence is that I think there are also degrees of authenticity.

When I was fighting my sexuality tooth and nail in order to save my marriage, the conflict between what I wanted to be and who I was was at it's greatest and I felt the least authentic.

Now I accept my sexuality and am OK with expressing my sexuality in ways that are non-threatening to my wife so the conflict is not as great and I feel more authentic.


Damon said...


Again, sorry this is long. I empathize with your struggle. When people talk about how coming out has given them an awakening etc I think it is specific to acceptance of themselves and in publicizing that awareness.

When I was in the closet I was always scared to have my secret known. Scared because I was ashamed of my sexuality. I thought it was bad, I thought I was bad. I thought people would judge me and hate me.

That act of hiding is self deprecating. I am hiding a core piece of who I am because I believe it is bad and/or because others believe it is bad. If it is a part of the core of who I am then it means me or a part of me MUST be bad too.

When I accepted my sexuality I realized I wasn't bad. I didn't care what those people thought. I was more important than their prejudices. If people chose to judge me and hate me because of who I am that was no longer my problem because I finally realized who I was and realized I loved myself anyway. Beck, you've gotten to this point.

I also realized I had to find out who really loved me and who didn't. If family and friends really loved me, they would love me regardless of my sexuality. This gave me the courage to come out to them. Some failed me in the beginning and they were the exception. Those people have come around. The majority of people did love me regardless.

I believe it is this that provides an awakening, a legitimacy to self. When I came to an understanding that my sexuality, part of who I am at my core, is not wrong or evil and then I shared that understanding and presented it to the outside world...telling them more about who I am and that what I learned about my sexuality is true. All may not like it, love it or accept it at all, but I've put it out there because it's a legitimate part of who I am and I won't hide because it's not bad or wrong or shameful. Others may see it that way, but I don't.

I think, Beck that you aren't at that part yet. And I think that might be why you are feeling a disconnect. I know there are many reasons why you haven't done that second part and I understand those. I am not advocating that you come out to everyone, but I think that it may help to explain the disconnect.

When discussing your authentic self, I think it is important to remember that there are many elements that make up your complete authenticity. Some are not changable, like your sexuality. Other things can be and certainly I believe religion can be a part of a person's authenticity.

Right now your sexuality is a huge piece of your authentic self because most of your life your sexuality hasn't been given recognition or legitimacy.

Can you be authentic to your sexuality as well as to your faith? I believe so. Although you can't change your sexuality you can decide what you want to do with it...this is one of those things about your authentic self you can decide.

You recognize I am a gay man and this is ok. You also recognize that you are LDS, that you have faith in God and in His Gospel and this is ok. And you make a choice to live a certain way. In this manner, I think you honor both your sexuality and your faith.

Hopefully this was helpful and not pointless ramblings. :)

Scot said...

I wonder, authenticity primary meaning being:

"worthy of acceptance or belief as conforming to or based on fact ",

is part of the struggle here that others assume into you notions that aren't "based on fact"? You may know who you are and where you stand in this gay/LDS struggle, and in that way be "authentic" to both your gay and LDS self, but, at least as I remember it, it's eroding to feel like a hidden outsider in your culture, or that you can't show your true self, particularly to those you love. It could feel artificial, unauthentic even if it's not that.

Not saying I've a solution, just that the problem may not solely be in you or how you regard yourself.

Beck said...

DICHO: Sublimating, huh? He found a way to do it... to live a full life in a way that was possible with his time and place and circumstance. Makes me wonder what I can do to sublimate my closeted energy.

Can I be authentic on this journey of being gay AND Mormon? Some will definitely argue it isn't possible. I'm still trying to find the possible within me.

Beck said...

PHILIP said: "Now I accept my sexuality and am OK with expressing my sexuality in ways that are non-threatening to my wife so the conflict is not as great and I feel more authentic."

I like that... So, what are examples of the way you do that - expressing your sexuality in non-threatening ways to your wife?

Beck said...

DAMON: Thank you so very much for your thesis here. It is something that I can "connect with" and helps me to overcome my disconnect with this subject. This is helping!!!!!!

"Right now your sexuality is a huge piece of your authentic self because most of your life your sexuality hasn't been given recognition or legitimacy." I'm going through a period where it is becoming all-consuming. I'm finding it difficult to work, to concentrate, to fulfill my other responsibilities. I've got to find a way to make it more proportional to my whole self and not the only part of myself that matters. How do I do that? Like others have noted, I've got to find an expression of my sexuality or I'm going to go nuts, constantly fighting within myself.

You flatter me when you say I'm at the point of acceptance. I am internally and I do not feel I am bad whatsoever inside. But, external acceptance of who I am is still a hurdle that seems insurmountable.

Beck said...

SCOT: So are you suggesting that to be authentic within myself is one thing that I can do (even with the dichotomy of gay and LDS beliefs within me - and be a peace), but that living so within my culture or marriage makes authenticity unachievable?

Philip said...

Beck said: I like that... So, what are examples of the way you do that - expressing your sexuality in non-threatening ways to your wife?

I recently answered that very question in my blog created last week Here is what I said:

Originally I had a very narrow definition of what gay is. Basically being gay was all about sex.

Then I came out enough to be able to interact openly and honestly with others and gradually my definition of gay expanded until now it's about everything being straight is about. In other words it is about feelings, intimacy, love, family, friendship, relationships and many other things including sex. So now I see sex as being a small albeit important part of being gay.

And the more I came out the more I was free to be me and the less I had to hide and pretend to be someone I was not.

In other words, now I'm gay no matter where I'm at or whom I'm with.

So I guess the answer to your question is that I can express my sexuality outside the bedroom because now I know my sexuality is about more than just sex.

So the question should be how do I express my sexuality in ways that are non-threatening to my wife.

Well, one way is that I try to form closer relationships with other men. This partially fills my need for intimacy. However, there is one big drawback. I like to form friendships with other gay married men and it's not always possible with all the family commitments to find time for one another plus a lot of my friendships have ended when the couple has divorced. I guess I'm too much a reminder of the past.

Maybe I should try forming friendshisp with straight males. That might be interesting with my being so out.

Other ways I express my sexuality in non-threatening ways is to get involved with glbt charitable or support organizations. It really helps me to help others.

I have also gotten involved in "gay positive" straight organizations and glbt social organizations.

The bottomline is that it's a lot easier but still not easy for me to be gay, married and monogamous (or as I like to think of it - gay celibate).

But it really helps me to be able to express my sexuality in more ways than just one.

Let me know if you still have questions.


Scot said...

"that living so within my culture or marriage makes authenticity unachievable?"

Not quite what I was thinking (and I'm just going on a hint of an idea here, so grain of salt...).

I was saying it seems very difficult to feel authentic when you have to hide aspects of yourself from your social group, and particularly from a spouse (but she knows in this case). I think you can feel inauthentic and yet still be, by the definition, authentic to both your gay and lds aspects.

robert said...

I think Damon explained the situation very well. His thoughts seem most clear about the stages of self fulfillment which make us more complete and errrr..authentic.

Beck, it seems you are rather stuck in the world of "what will people think" in your current struggle. Courage is required to "connect" all of the pieces. Some may not fit. Others will.
Unfortunately, we cannot know this in advance of our discovery. It takes courage to be happy. Imagine that. Once you have taken a leap of faith in discarding some of the layers of your personality which have outlived their usefulness...much more will be revealed.

Philip said...

Robert said: Once you have taken a leap of faith in discarding some of the layers of your personality which have outlived their usefulness...much more will be revealed.

The phrase "leap of faith" jumped off the page when I read this because I had to take a leap of faith before I could come out.

Reasoning and logic wasn't enough to help me decide. I didn't know what I didn't know about myself. I didn't know some things were missing until I came out and discovered them. I didn't know the cost of staying in the closet until I was no longer in the closet. If I had known all those things prior to coming out then the decision to come out would have been much, much easier.

The rub is you have to come out to find out but then you can't take it back if things don't go well.

After coming out the pieces of the puzzle started to fall into place and I replaced confusion with self-awareness, self-hatred with self-acceptance and dis-ease with my sexuality with being comfortable in my own skin.

But it didn't just happen over night.