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Monday, July 25, 2011

The Power in Being Still

I recently read a post by another blogger commenting on a rather biased article written by a member of NARTH on the causes of homosexuality. This article, found here at Invictus Pilgrim's blog, made a few sweeping accusations as to the general attitude of those who do not believe in a "defect-oriented" theory of the development of homosexuality.

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

Claiming It

So, some time ago a guy from my mission contacted me through facebook. He asked me quite upfront if I "struggled with same-gender attraction," because he did, and was hoping to find friends to relate to.

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.

Faith and Certainty

I'm supposed to be in bed.
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.

She writes:
"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

Midnight's Grace

Sleep slightly fades,
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.