Friday, April 16, 2010

The Silence that Kills from Within

In commemoration of Day of Silence


A while back, I heard one of the most unnerving and upsetting things I’ve ever heard in regards to my best friend. Discussing his homosexuality once with his Bishop, Cole was told that he was “beyond feeling.”

This really blew me away. Beyond happiness? Beyond pain? Beyond love? Beyond being loved? I still don’t know if that’s even possible—to be completely ruled by a numb sense of ambivalence. Why would anyone try to convince someone that he’s broken on the inside? Especially someone who does so much for those around him. Someone who helps so many people emotionally access unknown parts of themselves through music.

There was no rational explanation or emotional outlet. This man was wrong and he was doing harm to my dearest friend. I did all that I could to reassure Cole that he was at a much better place than in the months following his broken engagement to a girl. Just as he was healing from that tragedy and on the precipice of coming of age in a musical sense, another part of his world began tearing him down.

All of this left me feeling angry but incapacitated because that’s the last thing I wanted to feel towards a leader in The Church. For so long, I’d managed to walk the slack tightrope straddling the boundaries between a gay life and a life in The Church. I placed one foot in front of the other on a daily basis, limiting myself only to kissing and make outs, but nothing more. There were of course challenges to all of this—currents of wind pushing against my solemn, deliberate steps—but nothing seemed to frustrate me more than those coming from my LDS Brothers and Sisters (terms of affection and equality for other members within the Mormon Church). Cole wasn’t the only one who felt as if he was being torn down.


As I took the last class required for me to graduate from Institute (a religious education system serving those 18-30, generally), I became uncomfortable. I’d been uncomfortable before (not knowing how to handle the advances of my female classmates before I knew I was gay) but suddenly, I listened to everything with a new awareness. It was difficult to hear other people talk speak to the “issue” of homosexuality when I’d suddenly become a first-hand authority on the subject.

“It’s unnatural.” “It’s Satan’s influence.” “It’s because they masturbated too much.” All of these comments rattled around my head. No one including the instructor of the course seemed aware that there were people like me. People who had been totally faithful, who had served missions, who had been held up as examples. Now, though, because I’d kissed another guy, because I wanted to be with a guy for the rest of my life, because I didn’t agree on Proposition 8, I was a pariah.

In class, I became silent and anonymous. I would disappear for a week at a time working through the chaos in my head. I could not be at peace with both wholes in that atmosphere—complicit in my silence or outed by my voice. The instructor would occasionally send an email concerned that I’d missed two classes in a row completely unaware that his voice was one of those pushing me away. The one place I was supposed to be “a safe haven from the pressures, trials, and challenges of the world” (see the website) had become the one place I dreaded most because there was no room for my voice or my stories.

I put up with that feeling until the end of the semester, occasionally defiantly opening connexion on my laptop rather than taking notes. When the semester was finally over, though, I rejoiced because the silence could no longer kill me from within. I only had to deal with those feelings in the occasional Sunday School lesson or at the occasional family barbeque.


MoHoHawaii said...

"Beyond feeling" has particular meaning in Mormon culture. It's code for a person who is no longer intimidated by LDS Church authorities and is no longer willing to subject himself or herself to ecclesiastical discipline. It's highly connected to a guilt/shame system. A person who moves outside of the shaming culture is said to be past feeling. Note that the phrase can only be used by people who are within that system. It has no meaning in the everyday world outside of the church. It's one of those labels that make apostates sound scary.

Gay people get this label thrown at them all the time.

Unknown said...

Wow, the more that I read your blog I more I realize how much damage the church does. I knew it intellectually before, but knowing the details is so much worse. I can't help but be very angry at the church for the lives that they damage, and the smugness that they have thinking that they know what is right about something that they are so ignorant about.

robert said...

I want to thank MoHoHawaii for his insight on "Beyond feeling". I was unfamiliar with the term from the LDS perspective.

Another intriguing post, GMB.

Rob said...

I know the code well. And per MoHoHawaii's definition, I guess I'm beyond feeling. Funny, though, I've never felt so many things so deeply, so simply, so honestly, so wonderfully, so holistically before in my life as after I came out and stopped being afraid of that stuff. I wonder what Mormons who aren't "beyond feeling" would say about that. Well, I guess I know. And I know they'd be wrong.

Keep Sweet said...

When will people realize that it is not possible to be gay and Mormon? You can be in the closet and Mormon, or you can be gay and belong to another more modern church, but you can't be gay and Mormon.

LDS hates gay people, actively discriminates against and demoralizes them, calls them satanic and abominations. The list goes on.

Can't you just find a better more loving church and leave the LDS? I did, and I'm not even gay.

A Gay Mormon Boy said...

@MoHoHawaii: I'd only add that dehumanizing is word I'd attach to this label. After all, what we do best as humans is feel.

@green and purple: I think future posts will elaborate a bit more on this frustration on my part.

@robert: MoHo Hawaii really provided some insight to everybody in and outside of Utah there, I think.

@Rob: Very much the paradox you describe.

@Keep: I'm happy to say I've grown a lot since the events of this post and am in a better place now.

Cole said...

A Response (partially from my own blog) in regard to the event GMB shared:

"I haven't been in the bishop's office since that day, but I have been on the search for times when 'the Spirit' moves me, I guess to prove to myself that I am not, nor will I ever be, beyond feeling.

"[Truth and Beauty] always speak to those who want to listen."

I'm learning to break the silence -- to shout for joy because no one is beyond feeling. We all have emotions and memories and things in which we find rapturous meaning. Those small moments of beauty/inspiration/heaven "land like soft dandelion tufts in the places where [our] souls [are] hungry and aching...let them come...gather them in."

And I thank God, GMB, that you were there when I needed reminding that I'm doing just fine. What would I do without you?

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