29 December 2010

THT: Why Do You Struggle WIth Your Sexuality?

I should probably clarify my "Choices for a Gay Mormon" post where I mention not feeling right about "test driving" a marriage relationship with a girl. I did not mean we shouldn't give relationships a go to determine if there is longterm possibility there. What I meant was that I don't feel that sexuality is something that should need to be test driven in order to know what gender we are sexually responsive to.

Having said that, may gay people do test it to some extent. I did. I tried to date girls. I tried to make that work. But it didn't. So why should I believe that testing a marriage with a girl would be any different? How is testing marriage to a girl going to yield different results than dating a girl? Do heterosexuals feel the need to test their sexuality before they are certain about it? Are they sincerely oblivious about their sexual attraction before they start dating someone of the opposite sex? No. So why should gay people feel compelled to test it? Why do gays struggle so much with their sexuality?

I'd like to propose a possible answer and then offer a way for you to test it. I believe the truth is that we struggle, not because we are unsure about our sexuality, but because of the weight and pressure society puts on us to deny it. The pressures of religion and tradition, pop-culture, gender roles, etc tell us from a young age that heterosexual relationships are the only valid ones. Maybe you agree, maybe you don't. But if you are struggling consider this:

Pretend we lived in another time... another world. In this world the issue of sexuality was not a moral question. It wasn't uncomfortable for anyone. Society has not established preference for one relationship over another, religion hasn't tagged salvation onto one relationship and damnation to another. There is no stigma. Family and friends wouldn't be at all offended or surprised by you having a same-sex partner. It didn't turn heads in public. People never reacted with distain or disrespect. You were completely free and comfortable choosing any partner no matter what the gender. In this world- would you seek a relationship with a guy or girl?

Perhaps that doesn't help you. But for me it eliminates one thing: The idea that I am unsure of my sexuality. If there is no confusion after this thought experiment, I would argue that it isn't necessary and can even be dangerous to "test" your sexuality. If you still find yourself confused and unsure of which gender you would pursue, then perhaps you are bisexual. Being bisexual, however, does not mean that you can successfully deny your feelings for someone. Bisexual people still need to make peace with their fluidity if they are going to be able to live into the fullness of who they are. Otherwise, they will always feel trapped to some extent.

Looking at it this way, we can see that the pressures that lead to internal "confusion" are actually due to external variables. These external pressures are causing internal hell. We will never be able to live with full integrity if we allow external pressure compromise who we are and what we feel. Can we consider the possibility that perhaps there isn't something wrong with us? That perhaps the wrong lies in the "traditions of our fathers" and in the prejudices and biases of society?

It was terrifying for me to admit to myself that I was gay. My world collapsed. It collapsed because I finally had to give up the illusion that I could be "normal." I knew that it spelled possible ridicule, rejection, and hate. But I had no choice but to accept that I had no power to make myself be different. I had been hopefully fighting and trying to "correct" my sexual orientation my whole life. That effort consumed me until I became a shell of a person and my mind could no longer maintain the illusion.

To realize I didn't have a choice but to face the possible rejection by family, friends, religion, and society, I crumbled. But now I realize... to hell what other people think. I am not going to live my life fighting against myself simply to receive the praise of others. The only opinion I care about is God's and any condemnation I have felt has never been from God... it has been from the words and attitudes of the people who profess to know him.

The truth is. those attitudes and opinions led me away from God, not toward him. They made me feel ashamed to pray to God or ask him for help. They made me feel like I was unworthy of his love. They made me feel like he didn't care about my pain. They made me feel separated. God would never want that. That is how I know that the shame and guilt I felt was not from him or as a result of his disapproval, it was from people. People who I respected and looked to for guidance and direction. Good people who were unintentionally misleading me because of their own biases and the prejudices that have become the tradition of our society.

What if the war you are waging on yourself right now is unnecessary?


Libellule said...

I like the example test you give of living on another planet where everyone is free to choose. Ideally, this is how it should be. Society's pressures, church pressures, family pressures can all push people to feel that they have to conform, "test", try things on for size even though we know that we do not feel or look good in what they're trying to sell.

I also think you are right in that people cause shame to others whereas God would not. The only place you need to turn is inward to yourself and to where you believe you hear God's voice.

You've given a lot of wisdom and thought in this post and I hope that others will see it!

Andy Foree said...

I love the comment about being on another planet. When I asked myself, it was 100% having a relationship with another man.

Gosh...religion, society, and other stigmas really do mess up a person.

Trev said...

Thank you for your nice response to my last comment and yet another excellent post.

The part of your last post I commented on kind of struck a nerve with me because I think I might be bisexual, and it's more uncomfortable, in some ways, perhaps, even than being strictly gay (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t-4w6NqfLAc ;-) ). Of course I agree with everything you say in this post the way you say it, but as far as "test-driving," I think it has it's place, if only for a very tiny minority.

And yes, Mr. Foree, I do feel pretty messed up. I'm not bitter, though. Really...

Steven Lester said...

If God just loves you, as you suggest, that fact further suggests that there is no judgement to worry about in the future, which is declared as true over and over, by the way, within the thousands of stories told by Near-Death Experiencers. Lives led here on Earth, it is explained often, are only classes so to speak, which carry lessons that are learned automatically as the experiences are analyzed in the context of elder/junior or teacher/student or mentor/ mentee(?), always with patience and great kindness. If hell exists only within the mind of the hateful-of-self, then why must we fear it ever if we live life as just a big education, that is made possible only by becoming mortal?

Goering once said that power was one of the easiest things to receive; all you had to do was create fear within people and become the way to save them from it, for a price. Does the phrase "for a price" sound familiar, like within the Temple? And who speaks it? All established religions obey this law of power and profit hugely from it, including the LDS. It is truly sad that human beings have to suffer hugely because of it, especially those members of this Church. The NDE describes an environment on the Other-side that is largely completely opposite from what one might hear from the pulpit.

One other thing please: Not only am I gay, but I am also autistic. My brain does not work like yours. If my ideas and suggestions are equally different from your own, I really don't appreciate having them called revolting, etc. "Oh, you're gay. You're revolting!" "Oh, you ideas are different from mine. They're (You're) revolting!) What's up with that?

I have been studying the Doctrine since way before most of you were even BORN. Perhaps I know a thing or two about it and what the implications of its philosophy are. I don't know. Like what hell actually is?

apronkid said...

Huh, took the test. I'm gay :P Not a surprise there.

I admit that I still struggle with my sexuality at times. Somedays, I am 100% positive that I'm gay. Other days, I know I'm gay, I don't feel it as much as I know it, if that makes sense. I admit I still get confused; I still have to sort through my feelings, label them as gay or try to find an excuse for why I had a seemingly "straight" thought.

I realize now that being Mormon never gave me the opportunity to accept my sexual orientation. Any inkling of being gay that I had as a child was stamped out be fearful parents, a fearful world, and my desire to be a Good Mormon Boy. The saddest part is that, like so many gay people before me, I had to reach an all-time low to consider the truth: I am gay.

The war I fight within myself is for truth. I wage war with myself to find my original identity, and to recognize what has been created by outside forces. With this war, I sort through my pieces.

So for me, the "war" is necessary. I've made progress in my campaign for the genuine apronkid, and I predict this I can lay down my arms soon. I'll bury them in the ground, and never pick them up again :)

Kiley said...

Realizing there was nothing wrong with me was liberating. Realizing that the church was not what I had thought it was set me free. I really love how you worded this whole post. The realization that the pressure is external is key. Those that still find themselves to be especially angsty are usually those that still really believe, or are still bowing to the external pressures.

I especially love the last paragraph. You can only hide from it, cover it up and lie to yourself for so long. Most of those actions of course completely motivated by the desire to not have your entire world collapse around you.

The advice and direction given by others was never based on full disclosure... I am sure that many bishops would have stopped encouraging me to date if they had more information available to them. When I turned down my own marriage proposal my bishop was furious...

Awesome post... Sorry for the rambling and slightly disjointed comment.

Gay Mormon said...

Thanks everyone for reading and for your comments :)

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