Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Twenty-eight years and counting...

It's our anniversary today. She's at camp with the Young Women of the ward. I plan on taking her someplace special when she gets back at the end of the week.

Until then, I continue to contemplate these past 28 years, and reflect on the miracle of our lives together. For example:

1. The miracle of falling in love with her the moment I saw her. There was something different. I had been off my mission less than a month. I was instantly attracted to her. Now, you may say: where is the miracle in that - well, I can honestly say that I have not been attracted to any other woman since then. Why did she cross my path so early after my mission? And why did I respond that way to her and no one else? I have been attracted to numerous guys since then, too numerous to count, many in an infatuation and crush kind of way, some romantically. But, never another woman. She is the only one. I find that quite miraculous.

2. The miracle of her falling in love with me. It wasn't so instantaneous with her. In fact, I was so excited about her that it scared her off. She made it clear after our first date that she didn't want anything to do with me. So, I backed off, but knew what I felt for her and I began to observe her from a distance. A couple of months later, we started working together, and little did I know that she was observing me, too, from a distance. And soon, she began to see in me the man that she wanted to marry. I was oblivious to these thoughts she was having, thinking she still wanted nothing to do with me. She started observing my passion and compassion for the elders and sisters with whom we worked at the MTC, and the attachments and strong ties of love and commitment I put into others, and it softened her heart towards me - again with me not knowing she was observing these things or having these thoughts. I find that quite miraculous.

3. We started working closer together. That everyday contact began to warm my heart back up and we became close friends. We were engaged on our second date a couple months later. Is that gay or what? Yes, I said "second date". Some may say we were crazy, particularly me, knowing what I know about myself now. I think by now we had kissed a couple of times at the door. I was extremely attached and attracted to young men around me. I loved the attention and "spirituality" of affection I shared with men. I fed off of it. I was enlivened by it. But never did I feel I was gay. This was nearly three decades ago, and for the record, that was ancient history in the development of understanding what it means to be same-sex attracted - at least in my sheltered world. I had conveniently cloaked it in the realm of "spiritual brotherhood bonding", and found a convenient source for my attractions to find expression. These expressions of same-sex affection began on my mission, as I've blogged about, and my feelings found root with the missionaries. She saw all this, and even questioned me about it, and I frankly explained to her that I was attracted to and needed to have male-to-male affection in my life, but never put the "gay" or "sexual" nomenclatures on what I was feeling and doing - as at that time, I could not or would not accept that I was "gay". Gay and Mormon did not and could not coexist. And since I was a good Mormon boy, a returned missionary, a devoted and spiritual MTC teacher, it wasn't possible for me to be "gay". And so, though she didn't understand my need for this affection, she accepted me, and we were off into the exciting world of engagement. I find that quite miraculous.

4. That I actually went through it, responded to the promptings I was feeling (and that this was what a good Mormon boy was supposed to do - find someone and get married in the temple right after your mission - hey, I was doing what was expected, what I was "supposed to do" and yes, that I felt I wanted to do), and married her despite my attractions for guys, which I really wanted more of and craved for all the time, but was confused and refused to accept these cravings for what they were. Did I love her? I suppose so, but obviously not in the straight-guy ways. And so we got married... still with just a few kisses under our belt. I find that quite miraculous.

5. I don't think you could find two people more naive and innocent when it comes to the bedroom. I'll leave it at that and say - it wasn't easy. It didn't feel natural. It quickly became a source of confusion, disillusionment, stress... And yet, we went forward. I find that quite miraculous.

6. We didn't conceive. Then we couldn't conceive. Then we didn't do it anymore for a long time. And yet she still loved me. I still loved her. Maybe not in the straight-couple way, but we made it work. She should have left me then, but she didn't. I find that quite miraculous.

7. Five years ago next month, I came out to myself. I finally faced the music. I struggled long and hard, but knew that I was irreversibly attracted to men, only men, completely men, and that I was "gay". It was five years ago that I finally said those words out loud to myself. Six months later, I told her those words as well, packaged with all the nuances of what that means, and what it has meant through all our years and experiences together. It was then, that I knew our life together was over. I had finally broken all hopes of an eternity together. I had destroyed her hopes and dreams and promises of her eternity in one confessional dose of reality that probably should have happened decades before. Though she hated those words, and was filled for a time with incredible hurt and pain, she didn't leave me. She is still at my side today. Even though I shared with her as gently but honestly as I could that I had been "in love" with many men throughout my life, but hadn't acted on that other than not locking my heart and giving her the key, but allowing it to fall in love with other men - through it all, she chose to stay with me. I find that quite miraculous.

8. These last 4-1/2 years have been a roller coaster of emotion, of steps forward of acceptance and honesty, and steps backward of denial and closet-dwelling. I'm not sure whether we are going forward or backward. But we are still trying. I still am undeniably attracted to men. My heart still aches to be "in love" with a man. I still desire more than anything the affection from men. Slowly, we are more open to that reality in our marriage. But we are still working on keeping keepin' on. I don't know that I see the miracle in this just yet. This is hard. This is not an easy path. I don't know the next step to take, so I don't take much of any. I feel no progress - just stagnation. But, I feel no regret for the choices made. And I feel blessed, truly blessed that she is still a vital part of me and is still at my side, my devoted eternal companion despite everything, and in spite of everything.

I guess that's pretty miraculous after all.

What do you think? Was I stupid? dishonest? naive? too innocent in believing it would work? Did I do wrong in marrying when I shouldn't have?
(NOTE: I tend to go through this ritual of reflection every year. If I were brave enough to go back in my blog, I'm sure I could see that I'm in the same place I was last year and the year before... and I guess any faithful readers are sick of this same obligatory post. In a way, I'm sick of it, too... but as one who is faithful to obligations, I'm posting it just the same.)

Whatever... I guess I'll never know. I just know that I love her - just because...

Monday, June 29, 2009

A small moment?

After reading Sarah's recent post referencing a thread of comments on the Deseret News website, I visited the newspaper website and scanned through the over 300 comments and tried not to scream back at my screen. It is so interesting to me how emotional and obsessed so many people are, or become, when the words "gay" and "Mormon" are put together in a sentence. Why is this so? It is so discouraging to me to know how misunderstood guys like me are within my culture, and it just keeps pushing me further and further back into the closet.

There were a couple of posted comments, however, that got my interest. I don't know the authors, but I like the message, and felt the need to repeat them here.

The first one has a byline of "Imagine":

Imagine being told at a young age (about 12) that God did not love you because you were attracted to other men. It happened in a round-about way to me when a well-meaning mother told her son in a car we were riding in the God did not love gays.

Imagine trying to hold true to your religious principles for your entire life, while hearing people with whom you worship say demeaning things about people who have same-sex attraction, just like you do.

Imagine going through life knowing that you can't truly experience the type of love and relationships your other siblings have because for you it is wrong.

Imagine keeping secret something that is a part of who you truly are because you know that some of your "brothers and sisters in the gospel" will not accept you if that truth came out.

Imagine hearing the phrase "love the sinner, but hate the sin" over and over knowing that people are judging you a sinner.

How does it make you feel?

Imagine getting hit with the double whammy for choosing to abide by the principles of your church. You choose to live a celibate life, but you also get judged for being a single man. You hear comment all the time like "you should just find a nice woman and settle down."

Imagine overhearing comments that it will be unfortunate that I will be missing in the celestial kingdom because I am not married to a woman.

Imagine feeling like a second-class citizen wherever you go because you hear derogatory comments about gays on a daily basis.

Imagine hearing people say you must not have enough faith, because if you did you would have changed by now.

Imagine being grouped together with rapists and child molesters because if you are attracted to other men, you must do those vile things.


Imagine living around people who have put aside their natural judgmental tendencies and love you for who you are, without feeling the need to remind you whether they think it's natural, right, or wrong.

I think many of us who are homosexual and still feel a strong attachment to the church aren't asking for any policy changes. I can't speak for others, but all I am asking for is a stop to the constant comments that minimize who I am. I know that I am following the commandments the best I can, but comments like so many that have been posted on here prove that others judge that I do not. Do many of you realize that your comments and attitudes indicate that you think we are a problem that needs to be solved? We are not problems, we are just as important in God's plan as you are. I just want people to stop treating me as a problem, feeling the need to preach to me, and start treating me as a human being. Is that hard to understand?

And this one:

If you have been around as long as I have, you know that each person must work out their own salvation. Each person will face God and be judged. Each person will know that it is just.

I have learned to just love. I must allow all judgments to be Gods and allow each person their free agency to pick their own life. If I have not learned to love everyone, I have failed.

I need to look for the beam in my own eye before I try and pick any mote out of anothers.

I'm telling all you people, learn to love. That is why we have this new challenge - it is for us to learn to love everyone - and I mean EVERYONE!

Some respond: "you can still love someone without letting them destroy the world you live in."

This will not destroy the world. It will not even destroy "marriage." We are doing that quite well by ourselves. Look at all the people cheating on their spouses. Look at the quick marriages and divorces in Las Vegas. Look at the abandonment of spouses and children. Look at the physical and emotional abuse that is rampant in this world. Look at the suffering of women and children by those who think they are better because they have a "Y" chromosome.

We heterosexuals are 97% of the world's population. We are the ones who have screwed it up. We need to look for the beam in our own eye.

Now, go. Love your families and neighbors, be they black, white, straight or gay. Make this world better than you left it and that will not come from judging others and putting yourself above them.

For what it's worth...

I gave a lesson in SS yesterday on D&C 121 and 122. The trials and tribulations and suffering that Joseph Smith and the Saints endured during the Liberty Jail period of Missouri persecutions were a result of extreme fear and intolerance from neighbors and fellow citizens of the community who were not part of the fold, who could not accept their differences and sought every way possible to destroy what they feared. The Lord states in both sections that this time of tribulation will be "but a small moment". Of course, that can be interpreted to mean "this entire earthly existence" for when one is believing in the concept of eternity, this life is "but a small moment".

I can't help but feel that gay Mormons are now being persecuted as a result of extreme fear and intolerance. But this time, not from neighbors and fellow citizen of the community not of the fold, but of those WITHIN the fold. When is this going to end? And what good am I when I won't even face my own fears and come out into the light?

Friday, June 26, 2009

A sense of progress...

So, a little bit of an update: it's been six man-dates with my MOHO "just a friend" (JAF). So what does that mean? Does that mean we're going steady? Do guys go steady anymore?

We complement each other well. It's been a fun adventure along a new path, as I've pushed him in ways that he feels he needs to heal and grow and he's pushed me in ways that I need to heal and grow.

For example, I have had serious hangups and anxieties being surrounded by men in a sports setting and locker room environment. I am sure it comes from the angst and persecution suffered back in junior high where I was chewed up and spit out as being "different" and "not welcomed" into that world of athletic and confident men. Something was "wrong" with me, and I've dwelt on that ever since, to my detriment, I'm sure. I have isolated myself from that jock-world and have allowed those memories to continue to push me around and make me feel weak and insignificant, and I have not entered a locker room or actively and / or voluntarily participated in athletic or sports pursuits since then (even with the obvious enticement or fringe benefit of beautiful eye candy to behold)... that is... until yesterday.

JAF was the first person to instill enough confidence in me and encourage me to overcome my self-image issues, my hangups on feeling inferior and insecure, and succeeded in getting me into a locker room at a public emporium, and putting on a racer swimming suit and going into a pool to swim laps surrounded by other men and a few women. (NOTE: I do go swimming on occasion, but typically at a beach or swimming pool on vacation with the family where it is casual and confusing and focus is on the family and there is no locker room to be found. And I do lift weights, but at home in a home gym - I still wouldn't be caught dead going to a real gym to exercise - way too scary for this inferior skinny-boy! And a further note: for the record, the temple locker rooms don't count - though the baptistry locker room is close to counting!!!).

Needless to say, it was not a scary experience at all (or at least not to the degree that I imagined). The world of junior high locker room taunting was not to be found, and I enjoyed swimming the laps with JAF immensely (and enjoyed the speedo eye candy as well :)).

As I contemplate this, I feel this is good, healing therapy. It is easing my mind and building my confidence in this other "world of men" from which I have isolated myself, and again, to my detriment. Why do I have such hangups? Why do I hate my skinny body image so much (not that I want to be fat, but a bit more muscle would be nice to cover my my bones!)? Why do I feel so inferior for so many decades now? Why have I allowed this to fester so long? This is silly. I'm not in junior high anymore. So, why do those memories of pain flush back into my mind and why do I hear those voices that make me feel so "beneath" other men?

I hope that this is one step toward conquering these fears of mine and maybe there is more healing in ways I haven't yet anticipated. And I thank JAF for bringing me to this point and helping me to dive in and become a participant in life again.

One interesting twist with the "man-dating" gig. Unlike a straight date where you go to separate locker rooms, with a man-date, you get to share a locker together, shower together, and see each other in all your glory... pretty fun stuff. Yes, I can say I've seen my first MOHO naked! :)

Sounds like progress to me... what do you think?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Dispelling cynicism...

I've been pretty cynical this week with work, plodding through projects that don't excite me, traveling on an unexpected and sudden out-of-state trip to fight with obstinate bureaucrats, and fighting a dismal economic climate that is creating difficulty for any hope of a better future with major design projects that cannot be financed, and all the pessimism that results.

It was in that spirit that I took my family to the Oquirrh Mountain Temple Open House. My daughter came home from college and we were all together for a brief few days. It was supposed to be a fun family time together. Unfortunate, I was carrying a spirit of cynicism.

In the preview orientation film, Pres. Monson and Elder Packer spoke of the eternal nature of the family. As much as I know this to be true, I couldn't help but feel cynicism as I looked into their eyes and thought of how they don't truly understand what I am going through, or those of my gay brothers and sisters. I tried to brush it aside and think otherwise and make the most of this experience, but the cynicism was still there. I said a silent prayer asking the Lord to soften my cynical heart as we finished the film and approached the temple doors.

I need to mention at first, that I am the Church's number one critic when it comes to church architecture - I despise it! I think it is devoid of creativity and inspiration. It is typically overcome with the burdens of institutional, bureaucratic "design-by-committee" mentality of the church architecture department, and as such comes off dull and utilitarian. Surprisingly, I was pleasantly pleased with the use of beautiful and warm stone tile everywhere - no carpet. But, then I put on my critical professional eyes and started critiquing the selection of the hardware, wall coverings, light fixtures etc. We went to the lower level first, and I couldn't help but see a critical flaw in the layout of the baptistry room where patron waiting are removed from the font itself, and I started feeling cynical again, thinking I could have done a better job in designing and detailing the temple myself. I felt myself grumbling inside as I passed through a hallway, but then I turned into the room of the font itself and stopped for a moment alone - the family continuing on ahead.

I paused and looked into the water. Suddenly, I was overcome with the spirit, and a voice entered my head and clearly said: "Stop grumbling! Stop critiquing and nitpicking the details and remember the eternal consequences and importance of sacred and saving ordinances that will take place here in these waters."

A lump formed in my throat and tears came to my eyes. Thoughts of past spiritual experiences flooded my mind and I remembered those feelings from the past that I had forgotten, allowing my cynicism to take control. I was being told what I know already, but it was like a slap on my head to shake me out of my cynicism and see the bigger picture.

As we proceeded to the ordinance rooms, the Celestial Room (which unfortunately still appears as a 5-star hotel lobby with a nice chandelier), and the sealing rooms, I began to feel the light of the afternoon sun radiate through every single space! There were windows everywhere in all spaces. The doors into these rooms were frosted glass allowing light even through them when closed. Natural light poured in everywhere - a rarity in temples where most have windows in corridor spaces, but primary rooms are devoid of natural light. Here, natural light can through multiple windows stretching floor to ceiling, through doors, and in skylights flooding even the center of the building core. Sunlight was everywhere! When I left the sealing room, pausing to have my family stare into the reflecting mirrors, I exited to the end of a spacious hall where light shone through each side and from above through a skylight focusing on a painting of Christ by Minerva Teichert. Again, the spirit overwhelmed me as I basked in that light, as I heard the words: "Things aren't perfect, my leaders aren't perfect, but IT IS TRUE, and this is my house. Be patient and be calm and things will work out for your good."

I left feeling uplifted. Even though I tried hard to feel otherwise, I couldn't help but be touched. It was more than a touch - it was a slap in the head.

When we were outside, walking around the exterior, I snapped this shot with Moroni eclipsing the sun in a perfect alignment. I don't know it's significance, but it was a nice parting shot.

Sunday, June 14, 2009


I love the ocean. I don't know why since I get sea sick so easily and I hate to swim where I can't see the bottom, and I don't particularly enjoy seafood - but there is a calming affect on my soul when I am near one. I am drawn to the beauty of the expanse, and the playful water's edge. I love the rhythm and regularity of the waves. I love to walk along the beach and get sand between my toes. I love to snorkel among fish and crawling things and thrill at the discovery of a whole different world below the surface. I love to bask in the soft light of sunsets and sunrises over immense ocean skies. Such moments bring me solace and peace.

Family vacations bring a different kind of solace - of being and coming together and bonding as a family in ways that only new settings facilitate as we remove ourselves from the routine, of creating fond memories that will be reflected upon for generations, of healing the stress and pain of everyday life, of marking accomplishments made and celebrating new beginnings for the future. This summer brings a particular change to our family dynamics as three of the four will be "leaving the nest" and making us almost, but not quite empty nesters this fall. And so, this family time was particularly meaningful.

Family vacations and oceans together should bring an abundance of solace. In many ways, it has. But with some ocean beaches, particularly sub-tropical ones that are frequented by our gay brothers in quantities of lovely couplehood, come an abundance of delicious eye candy and temptations - triggering desires and thoughts and wishes for something else, a longing for what one cannot have (or what one has chosen to not have), a hope for some reconciliation of unfulfilled needs, a constant reminder that no matter how peaceful the surroundings, nor how wonderful the family time, nor how binding the bonding, nor how memorable the memories, the internal and lonely struggle continues on.

I'm not saying this is unique in any way to me (we all go through it) - just making the observation... It doesn't have to be this way, but I have chosen it to be this way. And as much as I envy and long and desire that which I "cannot" have, I am content with my choice and I'll sit back and soak in the memory of the family togetherness, the expansive ocean sky, and the beautiful eye candy as I try to heal my aching sunburned shoulders...

Happy Summer!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Just a friend...

So, what is a "date"? Why are we as a culture so caught up in the words that we use?

I've been having this conversation with my teenage daughter about her "friend that's a boy" and the definitions of a "date" and a "boyfriend". She is very particular about how we refer to her friend, that he is "just a friend". Yet, they go to all the dances together, they eat lunch at school together, they walk the halls together, they study together, they do activities together... and yet, while they've been in school and around other friends, they pretend that they are NOT anything more than friends. But, everyone around them knows that they are a "couple" and that they are the last to know... (I know because I have an inside source that tells me these things :)).

So when is a friend a "boyfriend" and when is a lunch date a "date"? Does romance have to be involved? Is it that simple?

As I drive around and see guys playing tennis together or going to the pool together, or teeing off on the golf course together - is that a man-date? I don't have a tennis buddy or swimming buddy or golf buddy or any other kind of buddy in that sense - at least not yet...

I've read posts recently about guys in this community venturing out and going on a "date", maybe to lunch or dinner with some other guy that they like and want to get to know better. Is it a "date" if one is open to the friendship going further than just friendship? Or can a friendship be more than a friendship and still be friends?

Why are there so many rules of the language we use? Why can't we just be who we are?

I remember once that Will (my young man friend) referred to me in introducing me to his buddies as "just a friend". I later razzed him good about that one, teasing him that after all we shared together and experienced and expressed together, that I was "just a friend?" He blushed and stumbled to back-peddle and clarify that he didn't wan to describe me as his mentor, or older advisor, or church leader, all of which were true, but they didn't have the meaning he wanted to portray to his buddies, that this old fart (me) was first and foremost his "friend", even a "special friend" - and calling me "just a friend" to his buddies made it clear that we were more than mentor/ mentee. That was years ago. And I laugh because he still calls me "just a friend" which now has more hidden meaning...

So, a couple of months ago, I put out the invitation and told the cyberworld that I was looking for a MOHO friend. And he answered the call, and he's come into my life. And we've met together several times now. We've broken bread together. We've gone on a hike. We've done a lot of sharing. And it feels soooo good and wonderful. The wonderful part is in being able to talk and share and be who we are without fear, without judgment, without inhibitions. It is a wonderful thing that this is happening at this point in my life, in our lives. It is strange, but good... oh so good...

I wonder... Is this a "man-date" thing? Is this just like tennis-buddies or golf-buddies getting together, but instead we're just MOHO-buddies? Or is this a "date" thing?

Right now all I can say is... "he's just a friend..." :)