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Thursday, January 6, 2011

Coming Out to a Japanese Psychologist

I'm smiling right now, because the title of this post makes it sound a lot kookier than it's really going to be. Of course, maybe my whole blog is crazy in a good way. I'm completely fine if that's the case.

Anyway, today was day two in Psychology of Gender. We talked a bit about gender stereotypes. My professor, a Japanese woman in her late thirties/early forties, brought up toys and kids. She asked the class if they would give their daughter a G.I. Joe if she asked for it. They said yes. Then she asked if they would give their son a barbie if he asked. It was obvious that there was no way they'd give the boy a barbie. I found it ironic that while the professor was trying to make a point about the irrelevance of stereotypes they were clinging to them ferociously.

Then she blew the lid off the whole issue (something I like about this lady). "What do you think? Is homosexuality caused by environment, by barbies? Or is it caused by biology?"

There were various answers. The closest to a liberal view was that biology predisposes us to certain tendencies, but environment does the rest. But most every person that commented referred to us as "those that chose this life." Ouch. Really?

I mean, come on! Why in the world would a devoted LDS boy choose to like men when all that would do is ostracize him from his church, his family, his society, his school, and his friends? Does that seem logical at all?

I wanted to say something so badly. My heart was beating so loud. And it doesn't help that I blush easily. Especially when I'm nervous, all the blood rushes to my face. But seeing as the professor had other topics to get to, I decided today was not the day to fight that battle.

I was still bothered by it, though. So I wrote my professor, the bold Japanese woman, about my thoughts. I wrote from an anonymous email address, just for security's sake. But I trust her, partially because of how easily she bursts open touchy issues, and partially because she is a registered therapist. So she'd be understanding.

I told her a bit about myself and my history, about my depression (still to come on the blog) and about coming to terms with everything. And I told her that I wanted to say something, but that I wasn't sure how best to do it. The last thing I need is for the whole class to treat me as an abomination and then turn me in to the honor code office. I knew that others had come out in this class, so I asked her thoughts. Here is her response (I love how her accent comes through!) :

Thank you so much for trusting me and talking about your journey.  I appreciate your email immensely. 
I did not stop the conversation because we are going to talk about it little more later, when we get to sexual orientation chapter.  I understand your frustration because I know that gay individuals do not choose their orientation.  How can anyone want to “choose” to be gay in such an anti-gay society.  I also know that God loves you no matter what. Whether you leave church or not, his love for you will not change at all.  It sounds like you already know that.  For that, I am grateful for your therapist helping you to realize.  I do not want you to reveal your personal experience in the classroom if you do not feel comfortable.  I understand that oppressed individuals tend not to have a voice.  But you can talk about your feeling as if your best friend is going through what you are going through when you really want to talk about it.  Or you are always welcome to visit me when you are frustrated. I would like my students of this class to be tolerant, loving, and respectful for others’ perspective.  We just started the journey.  I am praying so that I can achieve such goals.  

Again, thank you so much for your email.  I cannot give you a definitive solution.  However, what I can do is to do my best to teach students about love and respect.  As I said, this is the first week of the semester.  We will discuss more about it later.  Let me know what I can do for you.

After I wrote and thanked her, she sent a word of advice:

You must protect yourself though.  We have honor code office!! I will never say anything to anyone. I hope you will not disappointed with sticking to this class.  As I said, you are always welcome to visit me.

How amazing is that?! I felt a wave of relief flow over me as I read this email. Someone who gets it, who understands, and who wants others to understand as much as I do. It's nice to know that there is someone else in that classroom who will back me up if I need it.

I really do feel like I'll end up coming out in this class. Because I want to be able to say, "Hey! Look at me! Good Mormon boy, studying at BYU, and gay! I'm right here, I'm not wicked, and you have no clue what you're talking about!" 

I feel like as long as I don't mention dating at all, and I explain my experience rather than my plans for the future (a wonderful husband, I hope!), then the honor code office can't do anything to me, if they ever even got involved. 

But then, maybe I'm underestimating the potential of my peers here at the Y. Maybe, given the opportunity to talk to someone like me, they would see it as more of a learning experience, rather than an opportunity to shun and condemn.

This could also lead to my coming out in other ways. One of the guys who was in my district at the MTC is in that class. My coming out could spread to the other missionaries from my group, to the missionaries I served with in Europe, and even further. And I'm not sure how ready for that I am. Sure, fifty students I'm never going to see again. But my whole mission? That requires some thinking. 

Either way I feel like things are going to get better. I really want a chance to explain these things to my fellow students, and this may just be the tolerant forum I need. And considering the odds, I'm not the only one in there. (Actually, I'm pretty sure I picked him out in the first ten minutes of class. My gaydar has been going crazy lately!)

So, I'll definitely keep you posted on this class. Should be interesting. But the professor on my side is a good start!


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