Thursday, October 20, 2011
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
I remember getting the emails about Prop 8 while I was there. I remember being infuriated by the conflict going on. I especially hated the email about the protests at the temple. Looking back, I was definitely more impassioned about everything because of the skeletons in my own closet. But I still feel like the debate was vicious, on both sides. I know the members will say that the adversary was working on the side of gay rights, but in my mind all he wanted was hatred. And both sides gave it to him in abundance.
Really, I am very grateful that I was out of the country for that awful time. I was much too fragile to be here for that. And I think God knew that.
Friday, September 16, 2011
I walked in nervously, said a brief "hi" to the one girl that was already there, then sat down and busied myself with my phone. My nerves were mounting until I saw a familiar guy from the gay support club walk in. I could do this. I wasn't the only gay.
The room filled up and the two leaders came in. We began by going around the room introducing ourselves and talking a bit about why we were there. As the turn to speak came around the circle my heart began to beat into my ears. I wasn't sure if I was ready to come out. But I wanted to be able to. And what about the other guy? What if he didn't come out? If he did, I could. But what if he didn't?
As my turn crept closer I finally decided that if I didn't do it right then I would spend every session wondering if that would be the session I came out. I couldn't do that. I needed this group to help me, and it would only help if I had the courage to put myself out there.
The other guy got to speak first. He talked generally, not going into much detail, not coming out. But I needed to anyway.
"Hi. I'm Ty. A couple of years ago I began dealing with parts of my life that I had really ignored up until then, and that caused a lot of stress in my life. Basically, I'm not attracted to women. I'm more drawn to men. So I'm trying to figure out what that means for my life and where I'm going."
At that, the guy from the gay club said "Yeah, I think we met at the group on campus. I didn't want to say anything because I wasn't sure if you wanted to say that much to the group. I'm gay too," he said to the group. I smiled and breathed a sigh of relief.
Then to my surprise the guy on my left spoke up. "I'm gay too, actually." So there were three of us, and we'd sat all in a row.
A little later in the discussion another guy finally said "It may not be a surprise based on how I dress, but I'm gay too."
He brought the total up to four in the group. Half of the group was gay. We kind of chuckled at that.
Later in the session one of the group leaders mentioned that often this type of thing doesn't come out so early in group therapy. He asked me what prompted me to come out right at first.
"I've been realizing this week how much shame I still carry with this part of my life. I need to talk about it, to own it in front of others, so that I can defuse the shame and be healthier." He complimented me, and I felt a mini triumph inside. Even now, I week later, I am still only beginning to realize what a big step that was for me.
Today in our second group session we talked a bit about the large ratio in the group. We wanted to make sure that we don't take over the group time, dividing us and making it "gay time" every Friday. The rest of the group was very supportive and said they didn't feel we had, and that they would let us know if we did. One of the other gay guys who had been in previous therapy groups mentioned that at most he had ever had one other gay guy in a group, and suddenly we had four. I feel like it will give us all a chance to come to greater peace with this issue.
I am grateful this week for good friends. I have needed to talk with and rely on friends many times in the last week, and I am grateful for their love and support. There is a freedom and a strength that comes in baring your soul in front of others and feeling their love and approval. It strengthens me, builds me up, and has led me to more fulfillment.
In spite of all the unknowns in my future, it is going to be such a good life.
Thursday, September 8, 2011
Anyway, I wanted to write a bit really quickly (no worries; it won't be as long or convoluted as yesterday's post) about some thoughts I had today.
As I have continued reading the "Gay Mormons?" book I have had many thoughts go through my head, including the concept of coming out. In addition to this book, my therapist has been talking about having me go to a group therapy session in addition to our individual sessions. That means that I would be in front of a group of fellow BYU students (not straight this time) claiming my attractions and orientation and divulging the life I've had to hide for so long. That's mildly frightening. But that doesn't mean it's necessarily a bad thing. The APA laws of confidentiality apply to that setting, so I wouldn't risk exposure at all. But still...
Anyway, as I thought about coming out, in small ways or in general, I felt the familiar tinge of fear that usually accompanies it.
These emotions were going about my head pretty chaotically until I read a bit in Brene Brown's "Gifts of Imperfection" later this afternoon. I randomly jumped to the middle of the book to a place where she is describing the concept of shame. She defines that as the "intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging." It is the fear of rejection, of being hated or despised for who we are inside, and segregates us from those around us. As we feel that fear, the threat of shame, we distance ourselves from others, and effectively isolate ourselves emotionally. Dr. Brown makes the point that every addiction, regardless of what it is, has some root in shame.
As I read through these ideas, I realized that much of the reason I still feel isolated and uncomfortable at church, the reason I fear to be completely honest with my BYU peers, and the reason I still battle over this issue in my head is because I still have quite a bit of shame about this part of my life. Of course, my parents' reactions to all this hasn't helped. But I can't blame all my problems on them. Just because they played the shame game when they forced me out of the closet doesn't mean that everyone will.
Dr. Brown makes a point earlier in the book that the only difference between those people who have a strong sense of love and belonging and those who do not is this: those with a strong sense of love and belonging believe that they're worthy of it.
Shame destroys that belief of worthiness. Really, that term is not meant in the same way we abuse it in Mormon culture. It means believing that we as the individuals we are are worth love and belonging.
Having realized this, I hope to allow myself to love myself a little more, and get rid of the shame. Because as Ru Paul says, "if you can't love yourself how the hell are you going to love somebody else? Can I get an amen in here?!"
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
I've been reading the ebook "Gay Mormons?" which was edited by Brent Kirby. It's been an interesting read, and it has really opened up my mind to how diversely other gay men and women, LDS and not, have experienced and come to terms with their sexuality. Even though I had to break my stereotypical understandings to allow myself to accept my orientation, I have still gone about looking for commonalities in everyone's coming out process, as if I can validate my own experiences by matching them with others. That way my feelings will be real and legitimate, not just a bout of confusion over which sex I like more.
But I've been realizing that even among those who are "gay" there are so many people with different experiences, different ranges of emotions and attractions, and so perhaps even the label "gay" is a bit of a generalization. It leads me to wonder what kind of world it would be if instead of trying to fit everyone into a little box with a label on it, saying "This is Ty. He's gay." we were able to simply say to ourselves "This is Ty. He loves Steve."
Reading through these stories has led me to review my own past and really take a good look at it. It has surprised me how obvious my attraction to guys was, at least from this perspective. I can't believe I didn't see it earlier. There was one guy in junior high that I really liked, and now I can see that it was a total crush. Today I still share the same opinion of the guy: totally cute and a very sweet guy. But now I can see it for what it is.
People have written in this book that when they came out, many people knew and were simply waiting for them to do so. It makes me wonder how many people know about me. Do the cousins I grew up with have any idea? Or were they all just as blinded as my parents to see what they wanted to see?
Another thing that has really been sinking in these past few weeks is the understanding of what other guys truly feel for girls. Growing up, I really never questioned if I liked girls or not, because I had no idea how other guys felt. Sure, I liked them, but I never really got why we kept having to have talks in priesthood lessons about respecting women. What I assumed was my more natural self-control and spirituality was in fact simply a lack of attraction. It wasn't hard for me to respect women, because I had no desires pushing me to do otherwise. It has been an entirely new experience trying to learn to respect men the way my friends were taught to respect women.
But it has really been dawning on me how strongly other guys must feel for girls. Really, they must feel the same powerful urges that I feel for men, but toward girls. I examine them, sometimes, looking to see what it is what guys must really be drawn to. Certainly I can respect and appreciate their beauty, but I just don't feel the same draw that I feel toward the many gorgeous guys on campus.
Another thing that has been on my mind lately as I have read these experiences of others is the legitimacy, or supposed legitimacy, that nearly everyone seems to feel they have to their own views and claims. Let me elaborate. In one chapter of this book, a man tells about his journey through different religions, eventually arriving at the LDS church, before coming to terms with his attractions. He writes an official coming out letter to his mother, which is returned by an emotionless declaration against his life situation, and ultimately, against him if he doesn't change like she wants him to.
At one point, though, she talks about how he "walked away from God" when he left their baptist faith and eventually joined the LDS church. From a mormon view, we find this to be pure lack of understanding. She is in a degree of ignorance, we would say. But the terms she uses to describe it are exactly those that someone in the LDS faith would use to describe their own child leaving the path planned for him or her.
Ultimately, they both believe they are on the side of Truth, with a capital T. They have God's knowledge, and their child walked away from it. In the world of religion, politics, philosophy, science, psychology, and many other realms this battles of "Truths" can be found. The ironic part is that to each and every one of those people, their "Truth" is legitimate, and feels that way. So how can true Truth be found?
This is where my psychology class comes into play again. I wrote on the ideas from this class a bit last week, and it continues to be a real brain-tingling course. My professor introduced the idea of dualism to the class this week, explaining that it is the primary view of the world right now. Dualism as it pertains to this context is the idea that there are two distinct sides of the world that never merge: a subjective view, which is the personal opinionated (and thus "imperfect") view we each have of the world, and an objective view, which is truth as it really is. In our modern society, we tend to cling to objective truth, which we often think we have, or we swing the other way, believing that because we each view the world through our own personal lenses we can never find objective truth, and thus the only truth we have is the truth we see, and thus truth is completely relative.
My professor then described another view, stressing that both these are purely views, and neither is necessarily the way things actually are. This other view is an experiential view, which includes objectivity and subjectivity, but stresses that they can never be separated. They believe in a subjective objectivity. So perhaps there is an ultimate truth, but it cannot be separated from our subjective views on the world. Thus our subjectivity is based on objectivity. They are one. Never can we have pure objective truth. It won't happen. But ultimately, for those favoring experientialism, it doesn't matter. What matters is the union between the subjective and objective worlds.
I thought about this in reference to religion, faith, God, and sexuality. Ironically, my professor explained all this in the context of view of "time" (linear time is actually only a point of view of time, not reality), but the ideas translate across topics seamlessly.
Ultimately, there can be an ultimate truth. God's truth, if you will (but considering the similarities LDS doctrine places between man and God, even God's objectivity could be called into question. But once again, that's not necessarily a bad thing.). God gives this truth to man, but immediately upon reception by an individual, a people, or a prophet for the church, that truth is placed in a subjectively objective light. We see only a subjective (think personal interpretation or "lens") view of the objective truth. Complete and objectively true obedience to that truth then becomes impossible.
This led me to think that the only obedience God can expect is obedience to the truths we subjectively see. But that leads pretty quickly into a "truth is relative" realm that is purely dualism. So I tried to back out of that. When I approached my professor to discuss this with him, he really stressed that ultimately I kept falling into the trap of separating objectivity and subjectivity. But according to the experiential view, they are one.
As we discussed the implications for religious truth, he led my terminology toward the term interpretation, which is all we have to go off of here in this world. These interpretations can differ widely from person to person. But he cited Einstein and his theory of relativity, in which two people with two literal points of view (one in motion and one not) view the same event differently, but are actually both correct. Translating that across to our lives, two points of view can then actually be correct. But once again, we are leading ourselves toward relative truth.
His point was that, in the case of Einstein's theory, two people have differing points of view of an actual event that happens, but both views are actually legitimate. Both interpretations are actually legitimate. It's not that they have two subjective views of an objective occurance that can never actually be known. They have two different interpretations of an event, both of which are accurate descriptions of what happened. They are both truth, just different interpretations of it. But ultimately, for an experientialist, it's the meaning behind it that really matters.
I hope some of this is making sense. If not, I truly apologize. But this led me to a few conclusions. 1) No one can claim "God's Truth," as we defined it earlier, because they are not God, and have only personal interpretations.
2) Talking with my professor, we came to the conclusion that the best thing we can do is to gather as many different interpretations from different people as we can, sifting through them and trying to garnish what knowledge we can, and then making our decisions based on what we can find. Ultimately, we must search for truth where ever it may be found, examining many different interpretations, even those who disagree with us, to see what we can find.
3) This includes, as my professor noted and I readily agreed, that we maintain a healthy skepticism about our own churches and our own faiths. To get into a position of "I have the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth" is surely a set up for our own fall and hinders us from investigating all the interpretations that are out there in the world, actually keeping us from gaining the knowledge we need to make educated choices.
And 4) ultimately, none of us will ever grasp pure, objective truth. And even if we could, we would fail in living it. Thus enters the vital role of a Savior, one who knows us, our thoughts, our interpretations, and the choices that came from them. Judgment, then, will be done by One who knows us intimately, and can truly know where our hearts lie.
Perhaps I am mistaken, but this leads me to believe that it is severely wrong to say that I in my situation must abandon any truth (note the little t) that I have found through my examination of other's interpretations, and cling once again to the "Ultimate Truth" that someone claims they have. To stop questioning is to stop gaining truth, to stop learning, and to cease nearing the throne of God.
In my search I have found that the things I was taught about homosexuality were not reality, at least, they were not consistent with others' interpretations of the world, especially my own. The ideas set forth by the cultural mormonism on God, faith, and human sexuality appear to me to be rigid and unwilling to consider anything else that may shed greater light on the reality of things. I cannot claim ever again that I have Truth. I have none. No one has any. But I can get close to the truths that really matter.
I had a professor freshman year that said the human obsession with big-T Truth was a recent thing. In the past, humans have been more concerned with little-t truth, which deals with meaning, more than accurate fact. It seems to me, then, that when we talk of truth, we actually talk of the meanings that resonate with our souls. It is truth, rather than Truth, that has the power to change human beings, to heal broken hearts, and to bring one closer to God. What good is Ultimate Truth if it does not connect with the human soul? It has no purpose, being devoid of meaning. It is the little-t truths that rest next to our hearts that have true power, and that will bring us back to the throne of God.
It is with this understanding, then, that I endeavor to consider all the interpretations of as many people as I can find, both liberal and conservative, atheist and zealot, both gay and straight. By listening to these interpretations, gathering knowledge and finding consistencies, especially the ones that ring true to my soul, I hope to base my life on experiential truths that may be near to the truths that reside at the throne of God. It is my hope that if I do this sincerely enough, with an open heart and an open mind, I will be guided by a force greater than myself, and will eventually be led home.
And that is, I believe, what God was hoping for from the beginning.
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
There seems to be an unspoken understanding about the determined events in our lives. If they are out of our control, and unchangeable, then they are real, legitimate, and we deserve help or adjustment in dealing with it. If someone loses their house because they were laid off, we have sympathy for them. But for many the image of a homeless man on the street does not evoke enough sympathy to provoke us to action. The assumption is that his situation is his own fault. He chose it. And because it was not involuntarily inflicted upon him, his suffering doesn't gain the same sympathy as the man who lost his house. It's almost as if society doesn't even see his situation as legitimate, and thus unworthy of help.
A professor of mine was discussing the idea of determinism vs agency in class yesterday. He raised the question: "How many of you would say that everything you are, your personality, your likes, dislikes, everything that you are is determined by your genetics and your environment?" There were a few hands.
"How many of you," he continued, "would say that your own choices have made you who you are?" Many more hands went up. The professor grinned. "You're an unusual sample. In any of the other universities I taught in most the students would have agreed with determinism."
That stuck with me, and I thought about how this applies to the modern social issue of homosexuality. Much of the battle today, whether politically, socially, or individually, focuses on the why of being gay. The nature vs nurture debate is still raging, with neither side conceding. Thinking of my own discussions with my parents, much of the argument was simply over whether or not I was actually gay. There is this pervasive underlying belief that if I had no choice, if my genes made me this way, or if it is unchangeable, then it should be seen as a legitimate state of human sexuality, should receive social recognition, as well as state recognition as official familial unions.
But what about choice?
My first thought was, no, I didn't choose these feelings, but I have chosen how to respond to them, how to express them, and how much I allow them to direct my life. And so, yes, whether we like it or not, choice is involved.
But why do we as a society lean away from the agency side of things in favor of the deterministic position? Well, first of all it's easy. It removes the responsibility from our shoulders, should anything go wrong. It takes accountability out of our hands. If I can't control it, I can't be blamed. It takes away the risk that is inherently involved in choice. And we hate risk, because risk is uncertain. And uncertainty scares the hell out of us.
But what would an argument for homosexuality based on choice look like?
Let's imagine that in ten years I am married, with a husband and a couple kids. Rather than saying, I lived this life because that's what I was dealt, I can say I lived this life because I chose it, based on the knowledge I have, and based on my beliefs of what would make me happy. Maybe I could have made a marriage work with a woman, but I chose this, and thus put my energy and focus into making this marriage and this family work. My success and my happiness is of my own doing, not some freak accident. Yes, my sorrow was mine as well, but mistakes and disappointments don't change my worth as a human being, or the legitimacy of my choice.
In this marriage and family, I deserve rights not because mother nature made me this way, but because I have lived my life cultivating virtuous qualities into my life and contributing to society. I deserve to have the law fight for me, because I fight for me, and a fight for me is a fight for others' rights as well. My husband and I deserve to be married and share healthcare plans because we've made the sacrifices to build a strong and faithful relationship. We've chosen the commitment that requires all the work we've put into it, and we have chosen the love that qualifies us to be joined together. Our choice makes us legitimate, not our DNA.
And what of a spiritual view?
Yes, I have chosen to enter a relationship, and to commit myself heart mind and body to a man that I love. I have done so, believing that God honors that commitment and approves of the love we share. I have made a choice and committed to it, using every opportunity within that choice to better myself, my spouse, and to spread the light of God abroad. I have chosen that.
But what if I'm wrong? What if at the last day, I placed my bet on the wrong horse? Rather than claiming the part of a victim, which determinism will allow us to do, I can claim my choice, knowing full well that I did so with the highest of intentions, working to bring myself and those around me closer to God. Because I chose it, I can be satisfied that I did all I could. And even if that is not enough in the final count, it will count in the final self-evaluation.
I find it hard to believe, however, that even were I to chose incorrectly that it would not make a difference, had I dedicated my heart and soul. Would not my husband and I, who worked and sacrificed to raise a righteous family, be seen in a different light than the straight couple who neglected one another emotionally, and were less than diligent in loving and caring for their children? Even if I had chosen incorrectly, I could claim the success and joys of my life as my own.
And even the sorrows make a difference, if I were to choose the things that led there. Because if I can own them, they can mold me and shape me. If I am a victim, they can only maim and torment, a perpetual thorn in my side that I have no power to remove. Owning the sorrows makes them ours. And that changes us.
Ultimately, the whole issue comes down to this: What matters more, what is more real? That I am made this way and thus am stuck here? Or that I chose the life I personally felt was best, based on my thoughts, my knowledge, my heart? Which of these deserves respect? Which deserves recognition? Which enables us to move and grow? Which empowers us to be in control of our lives?
I am finished trying to prove my existence. I am done debating nurture vs nature. Attempting to prove my sexuality, my identity, and my feelings through deterministic means gets no where, and leaves me feeling lost and empty. I am making the choices that I see fit to make. I have listened and examined, studied and learned, prayed and secretly searched. And I am doing what I believe to be the best decision for me.
I am open to change. A willingness to reexamine and reevaluate is vital to a life of choice. But this is where I am now. I have chosen the path that has led me here. And both the heartache and the brilliant joy are mine, because I chose them.
Monday, July 25, 2011
I'll admit, my first reaction was to get my feathers ruffled somewhat. Part of me wanted to rush over to the blog and start writing about how closed minded people can be, and how ultimately, the cause of homosexuality makes no difference, only where we go from here.
But I decided against that route. A few moments to breathe deeply made quite the difference. Not to mention that as I randomly opened the ebook "Why Theology Can't Save Us" by John Gustav-Wrathall the next chapter for me to read was on how we react to angry and cutting accusations, particularly on the internet. Such beautiful synchronicity surely suggests divine reminder.
This made me think somewhat on the things I've been taught lately on my own personal journey. I wrote recently on a dream that I had that contained a valuable lesson for me. But almost as recently, my therapist and I deconstructed another dream. The meaning behind it was powerful for me. Though I won't recount the dream or its complexities here, I'll suffice it to say that the primary message was this: When those with angry accusations or judgments come, who claim to know what I should be doing, I should neither retreat nor attack in retaliation. It is best to stand, calm and unyielding, and eventually the attacker will break down.
I realize that this may sound disjointed or convoluted, but it makes sense to me, which is probably why I'm the one who had the dream. And it has done a lot for me, helping me to deal both with external attacks on my current life situation, as well as internal doubts that come, suggesting that my instincts are leading me astray. It seems to be that there is great power in "being still". It reminds me of the words spoken by Moses to the fearing children of Israel at the Red Sea. Finding themselves trapped between angry Egyptians and a wet place they turned to Moses, who responded "Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord" (Exodus 14:13).
This last week I watched a mini-series on Netflix about the Kennedy family, particularly JFK and his time in office (It's called "The Kennedys" and I highly recommend it). In one episode JFK has to deal with extreme racial issues going on in Missouri. The state has been ordered by the courts to allow an African American student to enroll in the public university, but the governor and the mob outside the university disagree. The US Marshals are called in to escort the young student, and he enters the campus, surrounded by swarms of furious protesters spewing profanities and spitting at his feet. But this young student stands firm and silent, walking stoically to the administration building.
Truly, it was the most powerful thing he could have done. Other such cases occurred around the country at that time. The Little Rock Nine also faced extreme hatred as they fought for equality. I remember seeing this picture in a textbook when I was in High School. I remember feeling so angry at the woman in the back, for all her unfounded hatred. But once again, Elizabeth Eckford walks calm and steady.
When people respond this way, there is nothing that the angry oppressor can do to bring them down. The calm but unyielding resolve of such people can be an impenetrable wall.
To be quite honest, I feel like sometimes in our own situation people can become impatient and angry, losing this calm and sure exterior. Simply looking at how Prop 8 was handled, by both sides, illustrates my point. While I wasn't in the country for this (thankfully!) I have seen clips of the types of angry protest/battles that took place over this issue. I truly don't think this is how we need to win this battle. Confidence is quiet. It doesn't need to be shouted into some ultra-conservative's face. But it does need to be harbored deep in the soul. Imagine what a crowd of hundreds of LGBT protesting like this would look like:
Such silent solidity is difficult to ignore. And not only does it fight for rights without contesting other people, it also leaves the protester untarnished from anger or hate.
I've digressed somewhat. I didn't really want to comment on political activism.
Ultimately what I am trying to get across is this: I don't have all the answers over this issue. I don't know why I'm gay. And I don't believe I have to give a reason. Nor do I have to prove to another that I have the right to be treated like a human being. When those furious attacks come, I have resolved to stand still, fearing not, and waiting as the tidal wave of anger falls away. It cannot last. Hatred cannot survive if others do not receive it. It wastes away.
I feel like the strongest statement I can make comes from living day to day, building my confidence, my happiness, and my spirituality. What effect can a storm have on a solidly planted stone? And what effect can those protesting against my rights have if I live strong, a whole and complete human being? Their arguments will crumble, simply because I am. Prejudice will die, and misconceptions will be forgotten.
Lies cannot outlast the truth that lives in me.
Sunday, July 10, 2011
I wrote him back, explaining that while I would have said that at one point, I had come to a place of peace over my "non-traditional" attractions.
As we began to converse back and forth it was clear to me that he is definitely in a different place than me concerning his sexuality. And while I didn't feel the need to open up to him too much, it's always nice to have another friend.
The other day he sent me a recording he'd made for another friend, explaining where he is and how he got to that point. Tonight I finally got around to listening to it.
His is a familiar. He feels so many things that so many people feel. But the way he talked was so distant from it. He used phrases like "someone of the same gender" or "attraction to males." The way he said "males" made it sound like it was a scientific discussion.
I don't intend to insult or demean his approach to this. He has just as much a right to handle his life in his way as I do to live mine as I see fit. It simply fascinated me how it seemed he was still so afraid to claim it. That part of him was still holding this whole issue at arm's length.
I guess what it ultimately made me feel was grateful for my own journey. Grateful that I've reached a point in my life where I can say "I think boys are gorgeous, and that's just fine."
I feel so much more complete as a human being when I can accept this and claim this as a part of myself. I feel more honest with myself, and more sincere with others.
Sure, I still struggle with social norms, religious implications, and family conflicts. Just tonight I was skyping with Monique, my best friend from high school. She's come a long way in the last year and a half, and we can talk a little about some of this stuff. But I one thing I felt was that I didn't want to be seen as less masculine. And I didn't want to feel less masculine. I know this is something I still need to resolve within myself. But even in spite of some of these struggles currently unresolved, I am grateful to be able to claim this part of myself.
On Friday night I was chatting with some of the wonderful folk at the gay fhe I mentioned how remarkable it was to me that once I accepted this part of myself, learned to appreciate and even love it, and give it some sort of expression in my life, these feelings stopped feeling like they were overpowering me. They stopped feeling like they were going to explode out of my chest like an alien from a 1980's movie. Now that I own them, I can control them.
And I am more complete because of it.
I have church at 9:30. I'm teaching the lesson in Priesthood, something I'm actually excited to do.
Yet here I am, blogging.
Last night I went to a gay family home evening with people I'd known through the blog world, but never in person. Despite my initial anxiety, it was a wonderful experience. I spent hours talking there, finally leaving at 2 am. It was wonderful.
Today, after 10 days with his family in Arizona, my boyfriend returned to Provo. Walking into his room and seeing him again was like finding a lost part of my soul. We spent all evening together, and by the time he went home I knew even deeper how much I truly love him.
Tonight, I worked on my lesson. I read through scriptures and looked up references online. Finally, I got to a point that was sufficient for tonight. I set everything aside, turned off my laptop, texted my boyfriend goodnight, and was on my way to turn off the light when my phone buzzed.
My brother texted me. And not just a simple, "hey, what's up" text. A looong text.
He and I have never talked about my sexuality, though I'm sure he knows. Well, tonight's text removes all doubt. And while I've developed a thicker skin in discussing this issue with my parents, it kind of stung to hear what my brother had to say.
He talked about temple worthiness, my previous example to him. He spoke of the devastation it would cause my youngest brother and sister if they knew. Even now I can't bring myself to read the text again, because despite the multiplicity of words, I hear one message:
You're not good enough.
Regardless of his intended message, this is what I hear. It's what I always hear. And it's the message I've heard for the past 23 years. This is my ultimate tender spot. My Achilles heel. The fear that regardless of how hard I try, I am not good enough.
When I finished the text I set my phone aside. The psychologist in me leaped into action, trying to piece apart my emotions so that they didn't overwhelm me.
And then I booted up my laptop.
I need to be fair. My brother has no idea what this issue looks like from the inside. He has no idea what my life has been like. He has no knowledge of the tears and the ache and the shame that I've carried. He doesn't know of the sheer hell I've been through, the valley of shadow and death that I descended into when all logical sense and faith crumbled. He doesn't know.
He also doesn't know of the peace that God has granted me. He doesn't know the freedom of a soul who has been caged for so long. He doesn't know the sheer glory of being able to see yourself, your complete self, and love it. He doesn't know of the pure tenderness of being wrapped up in the person you love. Of feeling your heart connect with another's. Of becoming whole.
But perhaps the greatest reason that the weight fell back onto my shoulders after that text was because it threw my doubt back into my hands. My questions and fears and "what if I'm wrong"s came rushing back to me. The shadow of that dreaded uncertainty fell upon me once more.
This seems to be a popular topic lately. Faith and doubt. Certainty and uncertainty. John Gustav-Wrathall blogged about it this morning here.
As I prepared my lesson tonight I watched a youtube video on faith. The video showed a clip of President Monson speaking at General Conference. "Remember," he said, "that faith and doubt cannot exist in the same place at the same time, for one will dispel the other." I heard that, thought for a moment, and then said "I don't think that's right."
In her book The Gifts of Imperfection and in her TED talk Brene Brown discusses faith. Faith, she says, used to be something used to explain the unknown. It was a belief in mystery, the unexplained. But it's become a safety net and a weapon: 'I'm right, you're wrong. Shut up.' She goes on in the book about how doubt is not the opposite of faith. Rather, certainty is the opposite of faith.
"Faith is a place of mystery, where we find the courage to believe in what we cannot see and the strength to let go of our fear of uncertainty."
She then quotes the theologian Richard Rohr:
"My scientist friends have come up with things like 'principles of uncertainty' and dark holes. They're willing to live inside imagined hypotheses and theories. But many religious folk insist on answers that are always true. We love closure, resolution and clarity, while thinking that we are people of 'faith'! How strange that the very word 'faith' has come to mean its exact opposite."
Uncertainty scares the hell out of me. It strikes me deep in my center with a fear of being wrong, of failing, of being rejected, and yes, of not being good enough. But certainty isn't faith. And without faith, we can do nothing.
I have been trying to learn to live with uncertainty. Sometimes I do very well with it, like last night at the FHE gathering or today with my boyfriend. But sometimes, like tonight with this text message, that fear gets to me and leaves me scrambling to get back to the sure shores of certainty.
But ironically, that "certainty" only comes from the approval of others. It's almost as if I can get enough people to agree on a point, then that must be the truth. And, among those people at least, I will be "certain." I will be sure.
But were I to retreat back into the world of certainty, of being validated by others, I would not be satisfied. Because deep within me, something would be dying.
I had a dream a few nights ago. I didn't understand it, but as I have been studying jungian dream analysis for a class project I believe that I'm beginning to gain some meaning from it.
I was being instructed by someone. Someone older and wiser. The person reminded me of Master Yoda from Star Wars. Small and simple, yet full of eternal wisdom. He was teaching me, among others, of fidelity. Of complete faithfulness. It was clear by what he taught that faithfulness was vital.
The dream shifted. I was in a tuxedo. Somewhere nearby was a bride. But she wasn't the focus of this part. Although it was clear that I had just been married, the focus was not on to whom, but rather what to do now. I recall looking down at my left hand and seeing a vivid golden band on my ring finger. I loved that ring. It symbolized my union, my completion, my wholeness.
As I look at the ring, Yoda came again. Once again he told me of the vital nature of fidelity. Of faithfulness.
And then I awoke.
I pondered over this dream. Especially the part with the bride, and how the point wasn't that I had married a woman. I couldn't make much sense of this dream.
Earlier today I was reading a book on jungian dream analysis, and the author commented on the archetype of marriage, both in dreams and in life.
"The syzygy (married couple) represents the union of paired opposites. Thus, this archetype governs the process of achieving wholeness in the personalty through formation of conscious polarities."
The whole goal of jungian psychology is the individuation of an individual. To put it another way, it is to become that person that we are truly, deeply, intended to be. This requires not a smothering or casting away of aspects of ourselves, but rather complete assimilation of everything, even those things we fear or hide. True individuation, true wholeness, is a union of opposites.
Thus, the marriage in my dream was not a sign of "find a woman," but rather, a symbol of my gaining further wholeness by integrating all parts of myself into one. Perhaps the most difficult part of myself to work with has been my sexuality, that so completely seems to contradict my faith. Yet, true wholeness is a union of opposites.
Fear would have me bury my shadow, lock away anything that wasn't comfortable, easy, or socially endorsed. Fear would have me bury fear itself. It would have me run from vulnerability. It would have me cling to certainty.
Yoda's words to continue faithful to that union, to that search for wholeness, is an directive to stay the course, in spite of fear. To listen to myself, and to God. And even if I have no explanation, no answers, no certainty, to move forward.
I cannot deny that these feelings are a part of my life. I cannot deny the deep desire to be connected to a wonderful man in every way. I cannot deny the love I feel with my boyfriend, the completion, the absolute serenity.
I have no choice but to claim uncertainty, to claim faith. It is the only ground I have to stand on.
I have no answers. I don't know why or how I came to feel as I do. I don't know what my God will say on that final day. I don't know that this relationship, these hopes and dreams and feelings that I have, aren't all a massive mistake. But I don't know that they are, either.
But one thing I do know. That my God sees the intents of my heart. He knows my desires. That my Savior felt each and every one of these emotions that I now feel. That my Lord has been watching, working, and whispering to me. He has been guiding me, and the journey's not yet over.
And when I have the sense to quiet my fears, to settle the panicked urge to find certainty, I feel his voice: "They don't know you. I know you. Listen to me."
And with Him, who needs certainty?
Sunday, July 3, 2011
and for a moment I gain foggy consciousness.
Darkness consumes me.
Then, I feel your touch.
Trusted arms enwrap me,
pull me into complete safety,
claim me from the night.
Your breath on my neck sends me drifting back to bliss.
There, hidden in midnight's grace,
I am whole.
Sunday, June 19, 2011
If my parents make me feel awful every time I am around them, eventually I'm going to stop coming home. I wish they would just get that. But they don't.
I'm so tired of being guilted and shamed. It gets even harder, because when I feel like crap like that I can't tell if it is because of what they're doing, or if it is because this really is the wrong thing for me. But being with my boyfriend tonight felt wonderful. Entirely calm and peaceful.
I want so much to make peace with my parents, but they seem entirely keen on continually pounding me. I'm not a child! Release your iron grips on my wrists and let me stand on my own! And if I need to completely fall on my face, then let me!
I'm so sick of the anger and the hurt. I'm so tired of the inner conflict and the frustration. Why can't they let me heal? Why can't they let me become strong? My fear and submission to them binds me. I'm so tired of being chained.
I want freedom.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
I went to the gym, but that didn't help. Later, my boyfriend asked what was up and I told him that I the past two days had been difficult. He was frustrated. He said it seemed like something always had to be wrong with me, and that he was frustrated that I still hadn't learned how to deal with such slumps. I told him it seemed that way to me as well, but it really was more like the same thing was still wrong. It just kept flaring up from time to time.
Later, he was at my place using my internet. I was lying on the bed, completely at a loss as to how to break free from the misery I felt. After a while my boyfriend got up, laid in bed next to me, and pulled me close to him. I have to say, he's getting pretty good. He knows that when I'm like that, what I need most is to be held.
I turned to look at him and said "Sometimes you need to remove the poison from the wound before you can stitch it up and start rehabilitating the leg."
He nodded, then said "But it seems more like you keep pouring more poison onto the wound."
"No," I said. "It's more like the poison keeps spreading, because it is never fully removed."
Then he understood. This problem with my parents has never been resolved, and because of that the pain and longing flares up from time to time. This was just a very extreme case.
But now that we were talking, I could get it out of my system. I talked about how lonely I felt, about how the walls I had put up to protect myself were now separating me from everyone else, and it was beginning to suffocate me. I told him how much I needed to feel part of a family again, how much I needed to be able to trust my family with my heart, but how difficult such a thing was.
I wept. Okay, more like I bawled. But the tears were cleansing tears. They were healing the hurt. He listened, and held me close. And when everything was finally done I could breathe again. I could feel again. I could smile again.
The experience reminded me of something my boyfriend and I talked about when we first started dating a year and a half ago. He was my first date with a guy, and my first boyfriend, and moving out into this world was very scary for me. Early on there was a night when it all was too much and I broke down. He put my head in his lap and stroked my hair, assuring me that it would all be alright. Then he said "See, this is the wonderful thing about our kind of relationship. Sometimes we can be the one who holds, and sometimes we can be the one who is held."
That has stuck with me ever since then. Now, perhaps I just don't understand the way straight relationships work, but it seems to me that there is a cultural expectation that men cannot be the one who is held. They have to be strong, and always be the protector. But with a relationship like mine, I can be the protector, but I can also be the protected. And there are few things a comforting as the strong and loving arms of my boyfriend when I'm feeling weak.
It is a beautiful thing. And it's in moments like last night that I know that what I feel for him is not evil. It reminds me of a beautiful verse, with which I'd like to end.
Monday, June 13, 2011
This past week I was introduced to the TV show "Keeping Up with the Kardashians." To be quite honest, I am not a huge fan of reality TV, especially when it's a bunch of immature girls screaming and pulling hair for half an hour. So I wasn't expecting much from this, especially since as far as I knew, Kim Kardashian was just a brunette Paris Hilton. I was very wrong.
Yes, there is still some fighting. It's a family of five girls, it's bound to happen. But I found a depth there that I didn't expect. I realized that these girls weren't just nasty skanks. They had soft candy centers as well.
Her whole family still struggles with unresolved grief. And when Kris said she wanted to visit her first husband's grave, some of the daughters were supportive, and some were especially antagonistic. They had an argument, and Kris left. She visited the grave and had a very emotional moment there. But when she got back home the girls that had been harsh to her had a bouquet of flowers for her, telling her they were sorry. They embraced, and it was all very sweet.
This episode struck me, down in my soft candy center. As superficial as they sometimes were, these people still were very real. They hurt. They cried. They had fears and worries and doubts. But they also had love. And they were there for each other.
As the night ended last night I felt very alone. Since I began to deal with my sexuality ,and especially since my parents forced me out of the closet (something I still haven't blogged about. Sorry!), I have felt very shut off from the world. Being around my family, immediate or extended, I automatically put up walls to protect myself from rejection. At school I constantly put forward an image to hide the deeper parts of myself. And it's gotten to the point where I avoid being with people, just because I can't take the vulnerability.
The isolation is a defense mechanism, an attempt to hide from the pain. But it also causes pain. It locks me away, and keeps me from connecting with anyone else. And last night, it stung.
I tried to go to bed, but I couldn't sleep. I felt hurt and anger, especially toward my parents. I wanted to scream at them. I felt the urge to hurt them, as much as I feel hurt. But I know what that wound really needs is reconciliation. It needs the salve of love and healing.
But that in and of itself requires vulnerability. It requires risk. And that risk terrifies me. How can I trust these people with my innermost soul, when they've treated me like they have? I'm not ready, to be frank.
The intense longing I felt while watching the Kardashians makes it quite clear that I long for connection. I need to feel my heart touch another human being's. I need to love, and be loved unconditionally in return.
As inconclusive as it is, I don't have an answer yet. And as simple as it will likely end up being, I need to reach it on my own, in my own time.
I'm going to my parents' place this weekend. It's father's day. And maybe if I'm not ready to reconnect with my parents, it will be nice to be with my siblings. I have a feeling that they would be more universally loving if they knew everything. So I'll cling to their love for a bit, and see where that takes me.
It may be cheesy, but the old song is right: "All you need is love." But love is a risk that requires a leap of faith.
Thursday, May 19, 2011
Monday, May 16, 2011
What more do you want from me?!
What more can I give?
I stand on the shore and scream
at your endless expanse.
You rock back and forth on the sand,
innocence denying inner greed.
You lie to everyone.
Your mellow show makes me the villain.
How can I not comply,
seeing you ask so little?
You simply want a shore to dance on.
Is that so much?
But others don't see,
see the lust with which you storm my door.
When eyes are turned,
when day has fallen,
you attack me,
demand of me,
command to me,
strip me of all but a saline aftertaste.
Billowing waves have stolen
Your hurricane fury has even struck my
health and heart,
leaving me broken in flesh,
and failing in faith.
By day I try to hide my shattered form,
covering my worn and torn visage.
Few who could see me as I am
would offer me unselfish mercy.
Thus even in your passive slumber
you take from me.
What else do you want?!
What can satiate the hunger
that everything else has failed to satisfy?
you miserable wretch?
I will not concede.
I will not stay broken.
I will not be defeated.
I will fight.
I will destroy you.
And one day the rage that fuels you
will dry the ocean from your bones.
And I will stand on the rocks
Finality is false.
Tomorrow is promise.
Today is possibility.
And self-awareness is power.
infinite potential awaits.
The light that breaks the seal is
the light that shines within us.
And that light shines
when we finally accept that
we have always been enough.
I shouldn't look.
I should lower my eyes and avoid you.
You are not like me.
You do not share my passion.
And you are spoken for.
So a simply look does no harm, right?
I'll just look for a moment.
My god, you're beautiful.
But of course you are.
Because while your visage emanates pleasure,
Your soul is to me a blank slate.
And I can paint whatever I want in you.
So I make you perfect.
And you become perfect sensuality.
I'll never touch you.
For the moment I do you'll shatter.
What I've made of you will be in shambles.
For perfection is best left to dreams and fantasies.
And you're best seen from a distance.
Like a moth to light, I am drawn to you.
I have a need, a thirst! to look and be near you.
You seem to shine, all of you,
and I wonder how it would be to be yours,
Each in turn.
I imagine waking up in your arms,
Looking into your eyes as morning breaks,
Kissing your cheek.
I look from one to the next,
living a lifetime in a glance.
Why do I look?
Why do I wonder?
I have arms and eyes and cheeks all my own.
And I love those eyes, arms, and cheeks.
So why do I look,
Why do fiery passions of "what if"
flood my veins?
Why do I feel this desire clawing at my skin,
trying to tear from within its fleshy prison?
What is the master emotion?
Is it fury?
Does anger's power make all exempt?
what a foolish question.
Humanity echoes from ages past and present
that love is the master emotion.
For love contains all the rest.
But what kind of love is king?
Does lucid infatuation rule?
Or does pleasure?
Perhaps passion owns all the rest.
Or is it yet contentment?
I have comfort.
It sleeps next to me,
wraps itself around me,
pulls me close.
Kisses me when only crickets see.
I wake up next to comfort,
I rest on its chest as sleep starts to fade.
Comfort is mine,
and I am comfort's.
I do not fear its loss.
Then why does the beast within me
yearn to break free?
What love pulls me?
What do I truly want?
Saturday, May 14, 2011
- through prayer, she'd received the answer that sin is sin, and that she cannot tolerate it.
- my attraction is not legitimate; I apparently had a hard time on my mission, had my heart broken, and sought companionship elsewhere because it hurt too much. (I fought back on that one, pointing out that she could never feel comfortable in the arms of a woman, no matter how hurt she was. It isn't about heartbreak.)
- I cannot be saved if I keep pursuing this lifestyle
- eventually the gays will persecute the church