Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Coming Out to Myself

"When did you know? When did you figure things out?"

As far as gay small talk goes, this is pretty much a cliché (I can't think of a first date I've been on where this didn't comeup), but one that we can all connect with even though our experiences vary as much as our occupations or our tastes in men. Every one of us had a moment in which we realized that we didn't quite fit into the archetypal world presented to most of us as kids:

Boy meets girl…boy goes out with girl… boy and girl get married in the temple and live happily ever after.

Along these lines, some GMBs know before they start dating, others figure it out as they interact with the opposite sex, and yet others figure it all out later in life. I like to think of this point in life as coming out to oneself. Of course, most of us have our inklings….

A couple of years ago, I had a very sincere discussion with my friend Brenda. For several months we spent most of our Fridays together watching movies or bowling on a purely platonic level. That night she asked me, "Why don't you date more? Guys like you are in high demand. You're an RM (returned missionary), intelligent, and handsome." I later found out that that was her way of trying to figure out if I was gay, but after thinking about it for a few minutes, the only thing that came to mind was: "I just haven't met a girl I'm interested in that much."

Well, I suppose if I were to overhear a conversation along these lines today, I doubt I'd be able hold my tongue, but I puzzled over that sense of non-attraction for over a year, eventually leading me to a precipice of sorts: "I'm not attracted to women and I'm not attracted to men, so I'm definitely not gay. I'm just asexual." Following a childhood in the church a full-time mission and the subsequent years, it was difficult to accept this possibility. That said, on April 15, 2008, I was pushed over this cliff.

(And although the metaphor of a cliff suggests danger and death, it led to the most enthralling and satisfying time in my life).

End Part One.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Walking the Fence

Over the past year, I've found that walking the fence is one of the most difficult tasks that I've ever faced in my life. It didn't take more than a few months to find out that I was not the first or last one to try. There was a mutual understanding between Mark and myself that 'Pushing Daisies,' our favorite television show, appealed to us on a very personal level as GMBs (Gay Mormon Boys).

For us, a line was drawn that we could not cross. Like the main characters on the show, Ned and Chuck—both men's names, I might add—had a limit placed upon the level of their intimacy of tragic proportions. Even though we felt very strongly for one another, we knew that there were limits to how far we could go exactly. We both understood that, together, we could not go any farther than cuddling and making out. Although this was the main reason we felt compatible with one another, it was also the source of our demise.

In the past year, I've seen many GMBs defining and walking these rigid lines. For the most part, the topic is simply taboo. Often, we're taught from a young age that gay and evil are synonyms when in fact the two are anything but mutually exclusive. As a good friend once said to me, "I wish I didn't have to explain to people that I'm a good person and I'm gay. I choose to be a good person." GMBs adapt in several different ways. The following types form a spectrum of fence-walkers:

The Repressor—An all-too-common response to homosexuality is counseling in order to repress these feelings and replace them. Whether these 'remedies' purport to repress or fix the feelings, the basic message is the same: "gay is evil." I couldn't think of anything more difficult than admitting that one of the most essential parts of myself is evil. Upon being in invited to one of these support/counseling groups by a high school friend, I was initially insulted especially when he said that it would help me live the most normal life possible."

The 'Out' Mormon—In my life, I've come across maybe a half dozen GMBs who are 100% out and 100% active in the church. Some are even able to serve missions. Consequently, scrutiny comes from both sides of the fence and it becomes impossible to please the most closed-minded in the gay and the LDS communities. Also, by being 100% out, GMBs accept the limits LDS standards place on their relationships.

The Ever-In—One of the most complicated solutions is to fully embrace the gay side (sorry to wax so 'Star Wars' suddenly), but not share with those who would disapprove and are affiliated with the church. Generally, this means the family, but in some cases high school friends and mission friends. In my experience, GMBs in this situation often choose not to pursue relationships that present any risks. Upon mentioning that one of my siblings—close to his family—knew he was gay, he simply disappeared (I believe) because I presented a threat.

The Schizo—At the risk of sounding incredibly insensitive, I've observed that many guys consider certain GMBs just plain insane. A select few GMBs are able to resolve the conflict between religion and homosexuality by living a life of self-contradiction. They, in fact, divide their psyche into two selves. One goes to church, the other to the orgies. Consequentially, trying to live both lives comes at the cost of one's integrity and perhaps one's sanity.

By no means do I intend to imply that any of these methods are unethical or unacceptable (I lie somewhere in between the 2nd and 3rd categories). Each GMB's situation (esp. with his family) is different from the other and comparing my situation to anyone else's will only lead to my unhappiness. Looking at other GMB's situations and understanding them, however, has helped me to not blame myself for them making choices different from the ones I make.

The Wanderings and Delusions of a Gay Mormon Boy

I suppose I've been meaning to sit down and do this for a while, but I often feel like I have to have a special occasion or some other excuse to start something and keep to it. Nonsensical, I know, but I can't help it. My neuroses show quite often.

The special occasion of starting all of this is an anniversary of sorts. One year ago I had my first kiss.

It wasn't like I'd imagined. It wasn't with my best friend growing up or the girl who wrote me throughout my mission or over an alter. (Yes, I was that naïve). It was the simplest of dates—dinner and a movie—overlooking the Salt Lake Valley. The major discrepancy here doesn't lie in the where or the what, but in the who. His name was Mark and he made me happy to know I wasn't the only one.

I wasn't the only Mormon boy who didn't understand why he had no desire to go out with girls. The only one who wondered why he wasn't interested in the girls. The only one who wanted to continue in the church without ignoring the emotions I'd just come to understand. Both of us had decided we were going to live our lives on that metaphorical fence between the gay world and the church world. And, finally, both of us were obedient, but only as much as we felt was right or fair.

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