Thursday, December 16, 2010

Friends, affection, and choices...

I'm going to attempt to blog again... I'm still feeling a bit numb since my mom's death, and yet, life goes on, and hope survives.

I have come to a realization since the funeral. When I saw friends rally around me including and particularly

1) my kindergarten-high school locker partner best friend,
2) my college roommate and best man,
3) my dear "Thomas" in Italy,
4) "Will" and "Tim", my young men,
5) my special client of 20 years,
6) neighbor friends
7) ward friends.

I have been touched by the kindness and gentleness and tenderness that has been sincerely shown and extended to me. I have found myself a blubbering idiot at times, breaking down in their arms, not because of the loss of my mom, but because of being overwhelmed by their meaningful friendship toward me. It has been an amazing revelation to realize like George Bailey that with true friends, it is a "wonderful life"!

I have found myself breaking down barriers within me. I wrote a while back about putting up barriers, particularly toward Tim and Will, and my other young men friends, in order to somehow preserve feelings between me and my wife, and in the process feeling like I was dying on the vine, a last leaf holding on...

But since this last month of overpowering love and affection shown toward me, I am tossing that self-imposed barrier to the wind and allowing myself to respond to love and affection with my natural tendency of even more love and affection in return. I have found myself hugging and kissing my men-clients, my priesthood brethren, and my young men buddies with reckless abandon, not giving thought to what others might think or say.

The other Sunday, Will gave the benediction at Sacrament Meeting, and since I was on the stand, he immediately afterward turned around and swallowed me in the biggest body hug you could imagine right at the podium. I melted in his arms, with stake presidency and bishopric working around us in our embrace to greet others after the meeting.

Last Sunday, Tim was set apart in a new calling. After the setting apart, there was the normal shake and back-patting (the prescribed three times) with the men in the circle, but with me he grabbed me and wrestled me and picked me up off the floor
into a bear hug and we nestled our heads into each other's necks for some time. And I kissed him and he wouldn't let me go. He rescued me again! Finally, he and I both realized that the other brethren in the room were watching us, and one of them said something like:

"I think Tim and Beck really like each other!"

Upon which, the Bishop responded: "Really, you think so?"

Upon which, Tim blushed and shrugged his shoulders and neither of us said anything, but just smiled that omniscient smile.


At the same time, I've found a closeness and support from my wife and kids. I have found a unity and togetherness in my marriage as we've worked through this adjusting period. And my wife has been more open to my expressing the need to be "me" in this limited way.

It's made me reflect upon this path I'm on... Yes, I'm living a lie. Yes, I'm not honest in my feelings for others. Yes, if each of these friends really knew the "real" me, would they treat me the same way? Would I even be serving in the church position I'm in? Probably not. So, the facade continues...

I guess this sounds pretty pathetic. I have to have a devastating family loss to bring out my emotions and feelings for others and break down my personal barriers again. I have to sneak my "gay pon farr" satisfaction under the guise of priesthood leadership. It's pretty damn pathetic, indeed, to sneak the snuggles where I can get them.

Oh the web we weave, spinning and spinning and spinning... in order to keep some kind of order in our universe... a balance of needs, including family, marriage, church, testimony, friends, and "the gay".

Is there really any hope in juggling these needs and trying to make it all work? Or, as I've noted in other blog comments, it really does come down to just two ultimate choices:

choice A) keep "the gay" under wraps, and stay married and in the church but securely in the closet and drive yourself to the cliffs of insanity as you live a dishonest life, or

choice B) bite the bullet, down the stiff medicine, and face reality that d-i-v-o-r-c-e is inevitably in the future, and loss of family, church and community, but be real and authentic and lose the facade.

I feel like Eve: "Is there no other way?"


MoHoHawaii said...

At the same time, I've found a closeness and support from my wife and kids.

This is great news. Sometimes it takes a crisis to jiggle us out of our everyday patterns.

I have found a unity and togetherness in my marriage as we've worked through this adjusting period. And my wife has been more open to my expressing the need to be "me" in this limited way.

Again, this is good news. It's definitely the right direction!

It's made me reflect upon this path I'm on... Yes, I'm living a lie. Yes, I'm not honest in my feelings for others. Yes, if each of these friends really knew the "real" me, would they treat me the same way? Would I even be serving in the church position I'm in? Probably not.

I think you might be beating yourself up a bit too much. Yes, you are closeted, and the closet is a wretched institution that we hope someday to abolish. But that day is not here for everyone. It's not here for you. Unless you are willing to make some pretty major and disruptive life changes that will affect many people besides yourself, the closet will be part of the compromise. You've already evaluated the alternatives, and given your best and most considered thinking you've chosen the path you're on now.

I would evaluate the situation like this. Instead of asking whether your life is the best imaginable, why don't you ask whether the things you have now-- job, wife, family, religious faith, friendships-- are enough? Do you have enough in your life to sustain you, provide fulfillment and allow for personal growth? If the answer is yes, count yourself blessed. If the answer were a profound no, then you'd probably be motivated to revisit some of your previous decisions.

So, the facade continues...

I get your sense of frustration, but really you have a lot going for you.

Ned said...

I'm really wishing at this point that I had gone to your mother's funeral, and that you had come to mine, or that I lived in your ward, or at least your stake. I believe that your ability to give "Beck hugs" is a gift and I'm glad to hear that you're sharing that gift more liberally, and apparently with an increasing level of acceptance from your wife.

Congratulations on that. This is progress. It may not be everything you want, but it is certainly a move in a positive direction. You and I may still be closeted, but in your closet there's a lot of light, air and a big picture window with a grand view. I hope my ongoing remodeling project can emulate your redesign.

mohoguy said...

Brother I hear you. I understand what you feel because I've felt the same. Maybe I've just grown hard but I feel like I can be honest with myself even if I on occasion still keep up the facade. For me that is a better solution than alienating people I care about. In some sort of a bazaar way it seems OK to sometimes not be completely honest with the folks at church. After all they have been doing it to us for years. In my mind it's more important to be honest with my wife and put on the "wrap of invisibility" when needed around others. Best regards

Beck said...

MOHOH: I can always count on you responding in a way that hits home and makes me think (and think in a more balanced and sensible way - enough to be tough on myself but not to the point of beating up on myself, even if I feel like I should otherwise).

I feel like life is two steps forward and 1-1/2 steps back. It never is a race forward nor a free-fall back, but it certainly is slow progress, if any.

Anyway, I will try to not beat up on myself too much, and indeed, I do count my blessing and feel fortunate for the good that is around me. No, it isn't perfect, and I'm still surrounded in a facade, but as I crack it open and reach out in even small expressions of the "real" me, I'm okay...

Thanks for bringing me a clearer perspective. You are such a great advisor as I see wisdom beyond measure in your words. Many kind thanks.

Ned said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Beck said...

NED; I feel your pain in the remodeling process. Sometimes, we have to tear out a wall to see the potential of the space and the expansion to come. I hope to be of assistance to you in your remodeling, for you certainly have been in mine.

MOHOGUY: Thanks for commenting. I've just discovered your blog and peaked at it and realize your story is a fascinating one that I'm anxious to devour and get caught up in. Give me some time, but thanks for being in the community and giving voice to your story, a unique one indeed!

Yes, it is sometimes best to be honest with your wife and cloaked with the rest, particularly in the church. I just wish I didn't have to, but this deep into it, I don't know how else to do it without throwing it all out with that proverbial baby.

Neal said...

Beck, I agree you are WAY too hard on yourself. How many people truly let the world see all their thoughts, feelings, actions, desires, faults?? I think nearly everyone has a 'closet' in their life in some form or another. I'm not sure keeping part of our lives 'closeted' is so abnormal or 'unauthentic'.

I don't think my sexual orientation is such a big deal anyway. I don't care if someone is straight or gay - that's not what defines them as a human being to me. Just because others don't see it that way is really not my problem. Its theirs. But since they aren't ready to accept me for who I truly am, including my sexual orientation, I certainly won't subject myself to their prejudices. I don't find that being unauthentic. I find it being practical and wise. As the Lord said, "neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you." Read that part about 'rend you' again. I would say THEY, have a problem with authenticity - not me or you. If they were acting authentically Christian no one would feel a need for a 'closet'. Essere d'accordo??

Beck said...

NEAL: I like the way you've turned the meaning of authenticity around. Instead of it meaning, you've got to be authentic like I am, to the person questioning another's authenticity stopping to think what that person is going through and what may be "authentic" to them in their situation that might be different from mine.

An interesting twist. Thanks for that thought.

naturgesetz said...

You present the following possibilities:

"choice A) keep "the gay" under wraps, and stay married and in the church but securely in the closet and drive yourself to the cliffs of insanity as you live a dishonest life, or

choice B) bite the bullet, down the stiff medicine, and face reality that d-i-v-o-r-c-e is inevitably in the future, and loss of family, church and community, but be real and authentic and lose the facade."

I'm reminded of the cartoon from maybe 45 years ago — spacious living room, tastefully furnished, young man leaning against mantel with uncomfortable facial expression, older man seated at left looking slightly angry, matronly woman on right looking anxious, all well dressed. Woman says, "What your father and I don't understand is why you can't stay in Princeton and find yourself."

Does continuing to live your current life have to lead to insanity? Certainly, acknowledging your inclinations and desires, even to yourself, can put a degree of pressure on you to fulfill them — pressure that doesn't exist if you're in denial or otherwise not fully aware of them. But if you consciously choose to set limits on the extent to which you will gratify those desires, perhaps the feelings of pressure will diminish over time (sort of like the pain of unrequited love). You could come to find that "expressing the need to be [you] in [that] limited way" could be enough. But you probably have to put your mind to it, and give it time.

I think it's great that you and the other guys are comfortable expressing affection like that. And I don't think you are living a lie, any more than someone on a diet is living a lie when he eats less than he'd like of avoids some foods he'd enjoy. Impulse control is not living a lie, IMO.


Joe said...

Interesting comment about Eve, about willingly choosing pain and suffering because you know what you will also gain. I'm still young and single, so I'm still at the point where I'm trying to decide if I'm best off staying single or if I can handle the challenges of marrying a woman even though I'm attracted to men. I hope you're able to work things out.

Way to get those hugs in while you have the chance. I wouldn't worry about having to confess to them why you enjoy them. You haven't done anything wrong and they seem to have no problem with the physical affection.

Beck said...

NATURE: I am not in the least fatalistic in my prospects. What I'm trying to say, and maybe too subtly, is that there IS another way! We as a community of MOHOs tend to lump these two fatalistic choices as our only alternatives. Some have felt that those are their only choices to make. I'm trying to argue, and again maybe too subtly, that it does NOT come down to just those two choices!

There are many choices, and I hope to be able to demonstrate just that! I am full of optimism that this path I'm on WILL WORK! And as MOHOHawaii has reminded me: I AM BLESSED INDEED!

Beck said...

JOE: Eve is my inspiration! She chose the tougher road for the better end result. I'm not saying that we have to suffer now for eternal joy later as our only option either. Man is that he might have joy! Yet, there is something to the point of working through it, with sweat and tears, and doing the best we can with what we've been given.

As for your situation, know that only you can decide what to do with marrying a woman. I can't put myself in that situation. In my day three decades ago, it was a different situation and I had a different mentality than I do now. My choices were made at that time and in that space and were the right choices for me in my mentality of that time.

All I'm saying is that my life is not hell! I have created a good life and the sacrifices and work and effort to achieve this life with my wife has definitely been worth it. And as long as she's willing to be at my side, and help me to still be "me", it will definitely be worth it.

Rob said...

I think we need to clearly distinguish between choices for those already in MOMs and those who are single.

Those in MOMs who have full disclosure to their spouses and continuing mutual commitment to make the relationship work can indeed find some fulfillment. I think your example shows this.

I also think even you have to concede that whatever fulfillment you might find in such a relationship is never going to be the same type you might find in a same-sex marriage, and it may come at a personal cost to you. It's not my place to say if this is better or worse than alternatives. It's your and her choice to stay put, and I think that commitment should be respected. If you do it with eyes open and full knowledge of what you're getting and giving up, then that's what freedom of choice is all about, and good for you.

As to those who are _not_ in MOMs, though, I think the Church's own change on this issue ought to be dispositive. I was in a MOM and found it unendurable. It forced me to try to kill a part of my soul, and that cost was just too high for me. I think the Church has recognized that I'm not the only one like this. So for single gay Mormon guys thinking about alternatives and whether a MOM is right for them, I'd say default setting is "don't". Cases like Beck's are the rare exception, and are not for everybody.

@naturegesetz who said "impulse control is not living a lie": saying that staying in the closet is just "impulse control" is like saying 9/11 was "an unexpected fire in a building."

"Impulse control" is what keeps you from stealing gum from the tray near the check-out counter. Staying in the closet kills the soul and spirit, robs life of happiness and fulfillment, turns this miraculous, glorious, colorful, amazing, wonderful life and world into a tiny, artificial stage with dull grey scenery where one must shamble through acting out an unnatural role every waking moment for the alleged benefit of an unseen and uncaring audience. I've done it both ways and I know what I'm talking about.

Beck said...

ROB: I think you know me well enough that I try to speak for myself and my situation. As you point out, I am an exception to the rule, and as so, sometimes I feel like my choices are indeed not valued as being valid to the community at large... that could be my perception, and I appreciate that you accept my choices and my wife's for what they are - OURS!

This blog is for me to work through my issues of being in a MOM for nearly 30 years, and having come out to myself 6 years ago, and the consequences that come with that particular time-table.

I do hope, however, that some in similar situations as mine, can see hope in my choices and not see me as "living a lie". That is why I appreciate MOHO Hawaii and your understanding.

I hope that those who are in marriages now, who do know they are gay, would

1) let their spouse know in a way that understanding and acceptance can grow between them.

2) give the spouse time to work through it. I know it took me a lifetime to get to this point - why would I expect my wife to get caught up in all that processing time within a few conversations.

3) In that time, work through issues and try to see if there is a way to still make it work.

4) If not, then at least the truth has been shared and the effort to "understand" has been made.

I just hope that those in MOMs would be able to work it out, for I've seen benefits in so doing. No, I'm not the "rule" or the "path" to take, and I don't pretend to be so, but I often feel that the standard thinking of the community, even within the MOHO MOM community, that the choices A, and B that I outlined in this post are the only ones available or worth pursuing... this post is trying to argue that there are other ways that are just as valid and should be valued as such.

As for guys who are NOT married, and who KNOW and accept that they are gay, I would definitely advise to not enter the heterosexual marital path. Even I didn't fit that category at the time. All I was trying to tell Joe is that I don't and can't speak for him and his potential choices. I appreciate your clarification and want to reiterate my stance to follow the brethren on this one and not get married as any way of "pretending" it will work, because it is damn difficult to make it work!

Yes, there are compromises living and functioning in a long-lasting MOM such as mine... and maybe I need to clarify that for myself as well as others. But, I would think you'd suggest that every relationship of any kind or variety has compromise and to think it doesn't is dooming that relationship for failure.

My world is full of color. I do not live in grey tones. Would it be more colorful if I were not married? I don't think I can answer that, just as I don't think I can answer that if I were in a gay-relationship that life would be more colorful than it is now. It isn't that simple, and I suggest you can only speak for your situation and not presume that my life would be filled with passion and romance and color and texture and richness moreso than it is now...

Ned said...

And speaking of integrity, some movies were shot in black and white and work very well that way, "Streetcar Named Desire" comes to mind. And colorizing usually distorts and cheapens the effects the director had in mind. Other movies which are in color often do suffer in black and white. What does this have to do with relationships? Well in my opinion you can have everything from a good black and white relationship to colorful but unworkable technicolor relationship. It depends on what you're seeking and how color-sensitive you are.

Rob said...

@Beck & Ned:

I should have clarified that the B&W/color analogy is based on my own experience. Not meant to suggest that no one else who isn't fully out has a grey existence, or that B&W films cannot be fascinating. I have been VERY hesitant to say anything publicly about MOMs out of fear of inadvertently offending somebody despite best intentions. Looks like that fear was justified. Sorry if I wasn't clear.

Beck said...

ROB: No offense taken! Just the opposite! I know from where you speak and I honor you for your stance and point of view. I know you speak from an honest and caring heart.

My comment is certainly not to silence your voice on MOMs. It was more a triggered response to allow my voice to articulate what I'm feeling, and to emphasize that what I'm doing, though with noted compromises, is right for ME.

And I thank you for calling me on the defense of MOMs in the face of the younglings who are debating that choice in their own lives. You're right and I needed that call to be sure that I was articulating my stance on that as well.

If anything, I wish you'd comment even more!

robert said...

You guys are all so civilized in your discourse. You must be gay. :)

Beck said...

umm... yeah... so what do you expect? It kind of comes naturally...

PNWReader said...

With respect to closeting/outing oneself, I love the line from QAF from that paragon of virtue Brian: It's not lying if they make you lie. If the only truth they can accept is their own.

Of course, Brian doesn't address how corrosive that is to the spirit, but I see it as weighing the harm: does it hurt more to slowly kill part of yourself because others won't accept you as you are than it hurts to live with the bitterness of rejection as your ward and stake discover they are far less Christian than they imagine themselves to be.

It's good to read your voice again.

MoHoHawaii said...

Discussions like these about an existing mixed-orientation marriage often bring up the sticky point about what advice we would give to young people who are contemplating entering into a mixed-orientation marriage. I'd like to throw my hand in this-- my thoughts are recorded here.. I'd also like to point to Carol Lynn Pearon's podcast starting at about 37'45" on the video.

Anonymous said...

Holy Crap! I am a mother to two young men. If I saw either of them hugging and kissing their leaders like you described I'd be horrified! Anyone with SSA who talks about the things you do and then goes on leading young men is the worst kind of hypocrite. Get your 'snuggles' somewher other than in the YM organization.

Beck said...

ANON: I respectfully disagree with your over-reaction. I am talking about married men who are in their late 20s, who openly show their affection to me. These are not teenagers! And they do it openly in front of their wives!

Obviously you are reading between the lines something that isn't there and I ask you to give me some slack.

I admit I'm a hypocrite (as most everyone is) and thus the angst that is portrayed in this blog. But never has anything been done of an inappropriate nature, and if you are implying otherwise, you need to get your mind out of that proverbial gutter that all men in my "situation" are dirty old men who want nothing more than snuggle with your little darlings!

I am not and have never, ever done any such thing and I beg you to see this in its proper perspective.

Kengo Biddles said...

(delurk) Completely unrelated, but the guy at the top of this post is playing a gay charcter on 90210 and you could watch it on YouTube if you wanted to. (/delurk)