Monday, February 21, 2011

After honesty

If I wasn't clear enough in my earlier posts, let me say it now.
This last week has been in many ways a living hell.
But, that’s not the whole story.
So Valentine's day was not at all what I expected. What began with a religious discussion turned into a talk about gay marriage and then, bombshell, our marriage.
It was like having the rug pulled out from under you, or the glass house you've built shattered, or whatever analogy best communicates the idea that all my perceptions of how and what I thought our marriage were were shattered.
My wife has been suffering, feeling alone. Hearing things like, "I knew if things didn't change we were heading for divorce." Yikes. But it means she feels things can change.
The other night round two of brutal honesty occurred. There was a moment when I thought, "This is impossible. There's no hope."Maybe others have better luck, but 3 am conversations about how our marriage is doing are probably not the best idea. That being said, there came a point when I think we sort of came to a truce or an understanding.
And things have been better since that. The next day was fabulous. I took my wife out, things were good. I think in a way it was own little miracle, God's gift to me to tell me to not give up hope.
So then what? Does that last? in a way yes. I feel so much more peace about everything, even though the problems in my marriage haven't gone away.
But then in a way no. Things come up. Life happens. Problems still there. Eventually we have to face them and own up to them, because my reactions and ways of dealing with them before are all still there. Unlearning that is hard.
I just hope we can do it with a lot more calmness than sort of the head plunging go all outness terror that's been happening the last two weeks. My honesty post probably didn't do that justice, but that's how it feels.
But then I come back to that calm reassurance I felt. Part of the calm was realizing that I didn't have to solve my problems immediately. That it's ok if it takes a long time to deal with them.
I even realized that they may never go away. But working towards resolving them, or learning how to best deal with them, that's the goal of a lifetime.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Why did I get married? Part 3 (and why I'm still married)

Then I pull out the evergreen manual, something I’d stuffed away in a corner for years. I’m afraid to talk to a therapist cause. who knows what they’d say! I try to do some serious emergency self reparative therapy. I’m staying up crying at night for reasons I don’t really understand. Months go by.
I start to realize something is really wrong. I’m getting more and more depressed, and feeling more and more alone. So now what do I do? I start for the first time in years to reach out, writing something on a forum. Then I talk to my wife, tell her that I'm still attracted to her, but I'm really attracted to men. It hasn't gone away in all this time. I don't know what to do. She says, "well what would you do if we weren't married"..."Probably live a lonely celibate life." That doesn't seem like a good option to either of us. We move on.
She tells me it’s ok, just that I better not cheat on her.
I decide to go finally to meet with a counselor. I find myself talking, and talking, and talking about how I really feel. I start to read more and more on blogs and forums, trying to figure out how other people feel and how they deal with this. I start to look back over all the years.
And I realize, I'm gay. I’ve been gay. It didn’t just change one day. And it's not going to change.
I had been lied to. And worst of all I had lied to myself.
At first it’s overwhelming, trying to figure out what that actually means for my life (I’m still in that process). And then I feel the greatest relief I’ve felt in years. All that depression, all that wondering if it would be better for everyone if I were dead, it’s gone.
So here I am. I can't really go back to the innocence of not knowing. I can't (yet) get over feeling angry at all the people who told me that I could get married, and it would work out.
Others told me that just cause I was aroused by men didn't mean I was gay, I was just a teenager. That my sexual desires were just trying to fulfill unmet emotional needs, or to complete a missing dynamic from my relationship with my parents (Sources: evergreen books, parents, and LDS therapists). I was lied to by all the people that "Change is possible."
Then on top of that there was all the pressure at BYU to get married, all the failed dates and relationships. All the frustration.
Is any of that my wife’s fault? Absolutely not.

But the reason I got married? I love her. I feel that despite all the lies I’ve been told and all the delusion I’ve lived under. And I want to be loved by someone, I want to talk to someone about the things in my soul, someone to laugh with, to cry with. Someone to be with me when times are hard. She’s all that and more to me.
It’s still confusing though.
We've talked very openly about this. She doesn't want to divorce me. She really loves me. And I love her, but I don't know how to resolve this.
I don't understand it all. I don't know what I should do about it all. But here I am. And I feel like some of you out there can totally understand what I'm going through. That gives me hope, reading your stories, knowing I'm not alone. Can I do this? Am I crazy? I think so sometimes. But then I also feel such a deep love, such a deep desire to hold onto my best friend. You can see why someone doesn't just give that up.
But? And it’s that “but” that’s keeping me up at night, writing this blog.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Why did I get married? Part 2 (and how it happened)

Then I met the woman who would be my wife. I didn't know then. I think it's harder for us to know maybe. But we spent all this time together, I really enjoyed being with her. And I knew she wanted it to go further. I didn't want to lose her, so we started dating (October).
Then I knew she expected me to kiss her. I made all kinds of excuses as to why I wasn't, but then it happened. After a week!I couldn't believe it. (I was also on pain meds, but again, that’s another story) And, it felt good! Here I was, oh boy! I'm a real boy!
Then I wasn't exactly jumping at kissing her more, longer or more often. After all, I was a good Mormon boy. That must be why I wasn’t trying to make out. But it happened. And you know, it was nice. Awkward at times, but nice.
Then we break up. I tell her it's for another girl, that it's because "she's not spiritual enough." I start to talk to another girl over the internet that I'd met in Mexico and we start making plans to get married. It's going to be a perfectly righteous wholesome marriage. (December)
Then I am about to fly to see her, but my “ex” is still in my ward. I think more about it and I decide I'm not going to fly to go see this other girl, that's a bad idea. I'm going to start dating my “ex” again. I apologize. I tell her I was a jerk I was). She forgives me (February).
We date, we talk about marriage. I meet her parents she meets mine. I ask her Dad if we can get married (it's May). I pray to ask, ok, now can I get married? The answer, "no." It dawns on me that maybe I haven't dealt with "my SSA".
Then I tell her I'm "attracted to men." It’s August. I expect to break up. She says, it doesn't matter. We can still get married. She's committed to me, am I going to commit to her? (August)
Then I move away unexpectedly, but we're still dating.
Then I start to “struggle.” I’m looking at guys, underwear models, all sorts of guys. I start to play video games a lot to distract myself. I think "it's just because I miss her." I write her a letter and she comes to visit. It’s November. And I propose.
She moves to California nearby. We see each other every day. I’m getting more and more used to physical intimacy (although it still sort of terrifies me). And overall, I’m excited to get married. This is what I’ve always wanted.
One day my fiancĂ©e asks me a question about what kind of lingerie I want, what my fantasies are. “I don’t know really.” I’m a little dumbfounded, what do I say? But we move on.
I get married in the temple. I go on my honeymoon. We have move into our new apartment. I'm having sex. It’s just like they said, I think. I’ve changed.
Years go by. I can pretend to be normal pretty well. I'm addicted to video games, and yes I sleep on the couch sometimes, and no I don’t go to bed at the same time as my wife. And yes, I’m always confused about sex. I'm not usually the one that initiates sex, I'm not thinking about it all day, but hey it's happening. But nothing’s wrong, I say. When I go to the gym, to the BYU pool, when I pass the underwear section in the store, I stare a little too long. But nothing's wrong, I think.
When I really start to get pulled to thinking about men at night. I think, "I’m not having sex as often anymore…. I’m just sexually frustrated." She goes away on trips and I think “wow this is hard.” I am looking at guys on the internet, “testing” myself to see how well I’ve overcome my SSA. But I think, it’s ok..I can just get over it.
It’s getting harder and harder to just ignore my attraction to men. Then more time goes by, sex is starting to feel different. These feelings don’t go away. I dream of men at night. I start to realize I’ve never fantasized in daydreams and rarely (if ever) in nightdreams about a woman.
And then it dawned on me. I don’t find other women attractive. I don’t think about other women. I don't often even think about my wife. I fantasize about men.
This wasn't a sudden thing. There were signs all along. When I watched the movie "Inn and Out" and thought, crap! I'm gay! But then after being with my wife I think, ya I guess I’m being ridiculous. After all, I’m married right?

Why did I get married? Part 1

After reading a lot of blogs, doing a lot of thinking. I have been trying to figure out, why did I get married?
The beginning of the answer is that's what a good Mormon boy would do. It's what my parents wanted for me, my bishops, all the wards and stake activities I went to told me I needed to do. All the priesthood leaders I talked to. The church tells us that marriage shouldn't be a therapeutic step, but that if attractions can be overcome then marriage is possible. Ok.
So I knew at 17 I was gay. That’s another story. When I turned 18, I went to my first evergreen conference with my Dad. (telling my parents, another story). I heard the testimonials that "change is possible." And men talk about how they went from having sex in bathrooms and getting excommunicated to meeting wonderful women and getting married. They talked about being open with their spouses and everything working out great. The wedding night, they were terrified of, but it was easier than they thought. Sounded like I didn’t wanna be gay. I got some books and went on my way.
Then I went to Byu-Idaho, and got set into missionary mindset. I found a friend to talk about my struggles. I thought, you know, if I work hard, if I dedicate my life to God, maybe he'll bless me with that miracle of a family. This is all I want in the world, to have a family of my own. I took a "The family: A proclamation to the world" class (I was the only guy)and was indoctrinated of the importance of protecting the family and how the family was under attack. I went on a mission, told my president "I struggle with SSA" and he told me God would help me and that someday I would stand up to those people who "have it all wrong”. Most important, someday I would have a family.
I came home from my mission and went to BYU. I taught at the MTC. I was an executive secretary in my student ward. I start dating a girl(I met at an evergreen conference, that’s a whole nother interesting story). We break up but stay friends.
I was the good little Mormon boy. Somewhere in this process I believed, I believed that maybe I had changed. I don't know exactly why I thought this. It wasn't as if I was spontaneously attracted to women, but I would say I was getting good at ignoring my attraction to men, repressing it and moving on. And one day I thought. Here it is! I have this under control. I’ve “overcome” this. I should get married!

Friday, February 4, 2011

It's ok to be gay

This isn't "my story" by any means, I'm working up to that.
But I want to say that it's ok to be gay. It's taken me a long time to realize this. For years and years I would freak out when I thought a guy was cute, or feeling attractions, but you know what? There's no reason to freak out about it. There's no reason to feel like you need to repress feelings, feelings are feelings. I feel so much better after I've come to admit this to myself, and tell others about it. I am by no means "out", but as I talk to family my wife, and others I can trust about what I've come to understand being gay, I feel a lot of freedom. No one has rejected me, I've felt a lot of love. Not that there aren't misunderstandings, but I've never felt closer to the people I love.
I guess the reason for this post is that for years I tried to change these feelings, frustrated when I kept being unable to do it. But when I was 17, in the midst of a lot of inner turmoil (more on that later), I remember praying. I prayed to God to ask what I should do. And the message? It's ok. I thought, how could this be ok? What does it mean, "it's ok?" I've been searching for that answer for years. Now 10 years later, after trying to fight it, I realize that all along God was trying to get me to stop freaking out, to stop worrying so much about something that was outside of my control.
Those 10 years were extremely painful.It's been a private hell trying to somehow solve this problem. I blamed my parents, I blamed God, myself, that I had done something to become gay.... but that's not why I'm attracted to men. And really I'm ok with not knowing. I read all kinds of things, that I just needed to conform to gender norms better (I am actually quite fine with the fact that I'm a man), that if I felt closer to my Dad, that if I just worked through this hard enough my feelings and attractions would eventually change.
They didn't. And now I realize, it's alright. It's ok for me to be gay. This is part of who I am, and I'm ok with that. I used to stay up late at night crying, wondering why God wouldn't just take this away. But now once again, I know that it's ok.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

On Being Mormon and Gay: A Manifesto

This is my first attempt to blog about being gay and Mormon.

As I think about the repression and delusion I’ve lived under, I realize I can no longer contain it. I’m gay (or as my euphemistic friends like to say, SSA).

Having said this, it is actually Elder Holland himself that has helped me both to realize and understand more about my situation. I tried for years, both with a counselor, and with a self workbook for men to undergo “reparative therapy” or change therapy to change my sexual orientation from one to another. While I've come to understand that sexuality is a continuum, where few are 100% percent homosexual or 100% heterosexual, I don't think that the changes proposed by these programs are possible.

You might ask, but why identify yourself as gay? When we speak of being gay, it's in partly an identity, partly a way to speak of desires, and partly a behavior. It means different things to different people. My reasons listed aren't the reasons for everyone. But when I and many of my “moho” colleagues out there are speaking of being gay or SSA 1) it helps to understand the sexual attraction to our own sex and 2)the experience of derision, hate, prejudice at the hands of our friends, neighbors, and family. What I think happens, is that most of us fail to distinguish between identity, orientation, and behavior. I admit, I myself tend to think like this. Some of us identify as gay but don't "act" gay. Some of us don't want to act that way, but we are attracted to our same gender. Many of these people identify as "same-sex attracted" "SSA" or "SGA" "Same-gender attracted". There are some of us who like the term "moho" and others who don't. Some prefer queer. There are lots of names we use to identify ourselves. The all encompassing LGBT-Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (And now LGBTQ -Questioning) is one that is inclusive of all of the non "straight" or non heterosexual community.

What bothers me is that people assume they know how I act based on saying that I'm gay. This is I think, one reasons why I sometimes avoid saying I'm gay. The truth is, some us have never had sex with a man. And some of us never will. I think all of us understand why there are members of our community that do, why they have desires, just like you understand why people have heterosexual sex -even outside of marriage. There are many of us that feel that there is no other choice, since we aren't, in most cases, given the right to marry.

So what does this mean? It means that we can’t change our attractions and feelings although I do agree we can change our behaviors. Even if the development of homosexual feelings is in some part psychosocial, so is the development of your heterosexual attractions. There are biological and social reasons for your attraction, so entering into a tirade about being “born that way” or not, is for the most part irrelevant. There’s no magic pill, no easy fix. Many of us have spent our whole lives wishing, praying, fasting, being at times unusually devout at times. We go to great lengths, even and often unhealthy ones, just so God will make us straight. There’s been no lack of effort or desire on my part to be straight.

But many of us, after years of painful agony, depression, and sometimes even thoughts of suicide have embraced our homosexuality. We realize that since we can’t change, we won’t. Since it’s both psychologically destructive and impossible to accomplish, we accept ourselves and our feelings, trying the best we can to reconcile the contradictions that exist (or seem to exist) between being a Mormon and being gay. We need your help, not your hate. We need you to lift us up, to welcome us in your arms and to help us feel part of a church which emphasizes time and time again the importance of living a chaste, heterosexual, and family centered life.

All of you have stereotypes of who and what we are. But we don’t fit them all, or even most of them. We are a diverse community, with lots of room for growth and lots of desire to be part of the kingdom and fold of God. I hope you’ll welcome us.