15 June 2011

THT: Will I Ever Be Able to Forgive?

I still hurt sometimes. When I am reminded of that dark place in my life when all I wanted was to end it, I hurt. The pain is real and it runs deep. It is the kind of pain you never forget. You know how you watch America's Funniest Home videos and there is a dad playing baseball with his son and you just know that somehow that ball is going to end up in dad's crotch? You know it, yet every time this scenario plays out, everyone's muscles contract and a grimace appears on every face. It is kind of like that, except it is emotional and spiritual.

I've been watching "Jack & Bobby" on netflix. It is an amazing TV series that only lasted one season. The episode I watched today involved a gay suicide. Gay suicides are common enough that they appear on tv shows, movies, songs, and just about any other story-telling medium. It is real. I remember back a couple conferences ago when the church responded to protests by assuring everyone that they did not condone bullying of any type. I had friends who avoided the direct idea that gay teens are being driven to suicide by making the problem general. No one was talking about how gays were being pushed to the point of suicide, they simply clutched to the idea that bullying was bad. Except, I don't think it is bullying that drives people to suicide most the time (though it sure doesn't help).

If kids felt like their family or their church or other people they were close to were proud of them and embraced them for who they were, a bully at school wouldn't cause them to become suicidal. Sure, bullying is bad, but that isn't the real issue. I'm started to go off on a tangent and I will stop there.

During those times I am reminded of the pain I went through, I hurt so deep. I am often brought to painful tears. Tears of betrayal, anger, sadness, and inadequacy. How do I forgive and move on? How can I forgive the men I believed to be prophets and a church I believed to be true for embracing and teaching a rhetoric that almost succeeded in causing me to take my own life and has succeeded in driving countless others to that end? Their number will never be known.

Is it possible? Is it possible even when the same rhetoric is being taught by the same people? Is it possible when the offender does not even admit to doing any wrong? Imagine that a person steals money from your wallet. After being angry for awhile you think, "well, perhaps there was a good reason, I will forgive him." But just then you catch sight of the offender and he is stealing from others right before your eyes. Can you turn your back on that and move on and really forgive him? Even while he continues stealing from other innocent victims?

I already know that I will never be able to forget the scars that are mine due to the anti-gay rhetoric men in authority taught as I grew to adulthood. But can I forgive?


jimf said...

> I've been watching "Jack & Bobby" on
> netflix. . . The episode I watched today
> involved a gay suicide. . .

Yes, I remember that episode ("Lost Boys"). You will recall that the kernel of that show was the fact that Jack was best friends with Matt until the latter revealed not just that he was gay (which **presumably** Jack could have handled -- at least, he talked a good line) but that Matt had fallen in love with him.

That was the deal breaker, no doubt from both sides -- because Matt couldn't bear the pain of being around the "friend" he knew could never reciprocate his feelings, and because Jack, despite his "liberated" attitudes, ultimately couldn't (as most straight men can't, to this day) handle the idea that another man could think of him in that way.

And so they went from being best friends to not speaking to each other. Matt's suicide, and the reasons for it, remain vague to both the viewer and (presumably) to Jack, though the fact that Jack goes into the boys' room and throws up when he hears about Matt's death might suggest that he felt partly responsible.

It does strain credulity a bit that Jack had the motivation and courage, after his ex-friend's death, to confront the parents and inform the father (over the obvious discomfort of the mother) that his son had been gay. On the other hand, that's the kind of guy the series generally portrayed Jack to be (i.e., a modern liberal's idea of the ideal Democratic presidential candidate's young self).

But the universal human tragedy of the episode, for me, had to do not so much with the plight of the gay teenager, as with the whole issue of unrequited love. (Did you know, BTW, that Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Mermaid" is thought by many to be a disguised autobiographical story about the author's unrequited love for another man?)

"Nevertheless, among the Eldar, even in Aman, the desir for marriage was not always fulfilled. Love was not always returned, and more than one might desire one other for spouse. Concerning this, the only cause by which sorrow entered the bliss of Aman, the Valar were in doubt. Some held that it came from the marring of Arda, and from the Shadow under which the Eldar awoke; for thence only (they said) comes grief or disorder. Some held that it came of love itself, and of the freedom of each fea, and was a mystery of the nature of the Children of Eru."

-- J. R. R. Tolkien, "Laws and Customs Among the Eldar" in _Morgoth's Ring_, p. 211

jimf said...

At least these days historians and scholars are less likely to attempt to hide the fact that many prominent figures in many fields were, if not "gay" in the modern sense of the word, inclined toward their own gender romantically and sexually. For instance, the poet A. E. Housman.


"In love's many mansions where likely and unlikely double-acts add their meaning to what it is to love someone, the devotion of Alfred Housman to Moses Jackson must be a high point of heroic absurdity, an unremitting, lopsided, lifelong, hopeless constancy to a decent chap who was in no need of it, temperamentally unfitted for it, and never for a moment inclined to call upon it; except in Alfred's daydreams:

Oh were he and I together,
Shipmates on the fleeted main,
Sailing through the summer weather
To the spoil of France or Spain.

Oh were he and I together,
Locking hands and taking leave,
Low upon the trampled heather
In the battle lost at eve ...

But it was never thus; or even thus -

... But if you come to a road where danger
Or guilt or anguish or shame's to share,
Be good to the lad that loves you true
And the soul that was born to die for you,
And whistle and I'll be there.

As can be seen from his notebooks, Housman returned to both these unpublished poems during the spring and summer before Jackson died. The earlier one ("Whistle and I'll be there") goes back to the months of miserable longing and creative fervour that produced most of A Shropshire Lad (published in February 1896). . .

[N]either poem, nor any of the poems of anguished adoration, some of them reading like suicide notes in verse, was ever seen by Jackson, "My dear Mo", the retired colonial headmaster, 33 years married with grown-up children, who died of stomach cancer in hospital in Vancouver and thus released Housman, who had loved him since they were undergraduates together on the trampled towpaths of the fleeted Isis. . ."

There was a play from not too long ago, about the relationship between Housman and Jackson, called _The Invention of Love_, by Tom Stoppard.

Jonathan Adamson said...

To be fair I don't think that the relationship between Jack and Matt is any different from an unwanted heterosexual romantic interest. Pretend Matt was a woman who Jack just wasn't at all attracted to and she expressed her deep love for him. You think the typical reaction would be for Jack to continue hanging out with this girl who is obviously upset around him due to the love she feels for him? I don't think so.

There might be better ways to deal with it, but I think that this is a pretty typical reaction, especially for high school kids (which are being portrayed in the film). I think it is also natural for people to blame themselves for choices they didn't make simply because they feel they might have been able to do something that would help the the person choosing to make a better choice.

jimf said...

> Pretend Matt was a woman who Jack just
> wasn't at all attracted to. . . You
> think the typical reaction would be
> for Jack to continue hanging out with
> this girl. . . ? I don't think so.

Neither do I. But there's an added element of unpleasantness when a gay man discloses feelings to a straight man. The end result might be the same, but often there's a great deal more anger and disgust from the recipient of the disclosure, even from somebody who might think they're OK with a friend being gay. I think there was some suggestion that Jack might have felt that way about Matt in the show.

Ty said...

I understand some of what you're feeling. I struggle with it too, both with the church and with my family. Sometimes the hurt comes out as anger, or as avoidance, but it's always there. It's easy to see the benefit of forgiveness, but it always seems a bit harder to actually do.

But give yourself time. I once read a quote that said to some effect: "You can't force yourself to forgive. But keep your heart open and when it comes, you'll be able to receive it."

I like how that sounds.

Troy said...

Forgiveness can be difficult but it is such a wonderful thing. Sure, there've been times where I've been angry or disheartened by "the church" but I've learned to forgive. It took time, and I'm still not perfect at immediately forgiving other's for offense, but when I get to that point where I can, I do. Harboring anger or offense for a long period of time doesn't do the soul any good. It is such a waste of energy. I've seen it destroy a lot of people.

For me, forgiving the church and it's leaders was liberating. I was no longer a reactionary. No longer a slave to bitterness or offense every time something hurtful was said or done. I realized church leaders were humans too, and every bit of deserving of forgiveness as I am.

I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive. It's definitely not easy, nor does it always come all at once, but once that moment happens, you experience a peace words cannot describe.

Boris said...

I don't have a simple answer to your quandary. The Holocaust was evil of a very different order of magnitude from the ignorant and bigoted statements of Church leaders on the subject of "same sex attraction" or whatever they are calling it today. The former resulted in the death of millions; the latter has probably led to the suicides (and, less often, homicides) of some hundreds of gay/lesbian Mormon youth. But in both cases, too many human lives were lost to stupidity and hatred; and, in both cases, the proponents of hatred even cited religious/scriptural arguments to justify their antisemitism and/or homophobia.

As a matter of policy, Israel apparently neither forgives nor forgets: no matter how many years have passed since the time of the crime, its agents continue to seek what they believe to be justice against the perpetrators of evil, whether a Nazi like Eichmann (ultimately tried and executed), or the terrorists responsible for the Munich massacre. (The good old USA recently did the same in re. to Osama bin Laden, so we probably ought not to cast stones.)

I can't say if "justice" brings closure to those family members and others who loved and grieved for the victims of hatred and bigotry. But, in this world, it appears to be the best alternative available. If you are a true believer, you may be willing to wait for the promised "judgement day" when even certain GA might receive their just desserts. But, in this life, those who sanction/support terrorism are considered "fair targets" for the Mossad or the CIA--what, then, should we say for those whose words effectively sanction/support gay suicide/homicide?

Boris said...

@ Troy: you say that church leaders are "humans too, and every bit of deserving of forgiveness as I am." Really?

(1) That is NOT what they (the Mormon Church leaders) claim to be: their authority ostensibly derives from their status as "prophets" who receive their inspiration, individually or collectively, from God. Not so different from the doctrine of "infallibility" in re. to Roman Catholic Popes.

(2) What have YOU actually done that requires forgiveness? Have you ever persecuted, demeaned, or cast stones at your gay/lesbian Mormon brothers and sisters? Have you ever promulgated teachings as "doctrine" that they should be put down, denied fellowship, excommunicated, even physically/violently "decked" (as the current President of the Quorum of the Twelve has previously stated in both speeches and pamphlets)?

I'm happy for you that you have found forgiving these false prophets to be "liberating." However, I think you and many tens of thousands (at least) of your brothers and sisters would feel a lot more "liberated" if these mountebanks (i.e., the GA) simply confessed their own ignorance and ended their persecution of gays/lesbians just as their forebears ended the (earthly) practice of plural marriage more than a century ago.

jimf said...

> I'm happy for you that you have found
> forgiving these false prophets to be
> "liberating."

Yes, it all turns on what exactly is meant by "forgiveness".

A homosexual, or anybody who has been cast out (or cast **himself** out) of a hierarchical social group as a result of questioning putatively unquestionable doctrine, and who has then gone on to put his or her trust in his or her own judgment (combined, of course, with information from alternative authorities sought outside the erstwhile faith) can never really -- would not want to, **should** not want to -- go back to thinking and feeling about those once unquestionable group authorities with the same respect, reverence, and affection as before the "apostasy".

That doesn't mean wallowing in anger or revenge fantasies forever (though a certain amount of anger -- perhaps only remembered anger -- might well usefully remain).

It is a part of intellectual and emotional maturity to come to realize that the human race is **not** "one big happy family" -- that there are real and important conflicts of interest, and that the foci of social conservatism in this country (including the LDS church) most definitely do **not** have homosexuals' best interests at heart (certainly not their best interests **as** homosexuals).

So, the church leaders certainly deserve the consideration due to any human beings as human beings, but it's no good trying to pretend (or **wanting** to pretend) that they are not, in some real sense, your enemies.

jimf said...

Is no one safe?! :-0

My Ex-Gay Friend
by Benoit Denizet-Lewis
June 16, 2011


"We worked together 12 years ago at XY, a San Francisco-based national magazine for young gay men, back when we were young gay men ourselves.

Though only a year removed from Dartmouth when he arrived at XY, Michael [Glatze] had seemingly read every gay book ever written. While I was busy trying to secure a boyfriend, he was busy contemplating queer theory, marching in gay rights rallies and urging young people to celebrate (not just accept) their same-sex attractions. Michael was devoted to helping gay youth, and he was particularly affected by the letters the magazine received regularly from teenagers who were rejected by their religious families. 'Christian fundamentalists should burn in hell!' he told me once, slamming his fist on his desk. I had never met anyone so sure of himself. . .

Michael’s political views began shifting rightward: he spoke glowingly about Ann Coulter, and in a Time cover article in 2005 about gay teenagers he said: 'I don’t think the gay movement understands the extent to which the next generation just wants to be normal kids. The people who are getting that are the Christian right.'

Michael’s friends and co-workers didn’t know what to make of his religious fervor or his shifting politics. Neither did his boyfriend, Ben, but Ben was more concerned with saving their floundering relationship. They had been together nearly a decade. . .

[Michael] said he then briefly joined the Mormon Church, heartened by promises from several Mormon men he befriended that they would help him 'find a wife.' (Michael left the church a short time later after deciding that Mormons 'didn’t agree with the Bible.'). . .

As Ben and I reminisced, I couldn’t help wondering if Michael’s new philosophy might, in a strange way, be a logical extension of what he believed back then. . . Ben nodded. 'A radical queer activist and a fundamentalist Christian aren’t always as different as they might seem,' he said, adding that they’re ideologues who can railroad over nuance and claim a monopoly on the truth.

At the end of my Wyoming visit, I drove Michael from his apartment to the Bible school. . . At an intersection I asked him if I should turn left or go straight. 'Straight,' he said, pointing the way. . .

For an ex-gay intent on staying that way, there are few safer places in the world than a Bible school in Wyoming. The country’s least-populous state — where Matthew Shepard was murdered and left to die on a rural fence post, and where two fictional cowboys fell in love on Brokeback Mountain but never allowed themselves a life together — is also a state without a gay bar. My old friend, it seems, has picked the perfect place to go straight."

Boris said...

@jimf--thank you for having said it all so much better (and with a healthier dose of irony) than I ever could have done--but the bottom-line is much the same, as you say (and I strongly agree), "the church leaders certainly deserve the consideration due to any human beings as human beings, but it's no good trying to pretend (or **wanting** to pretend) that they are not, in some real sense, your enemies." I know Boyd Packer and many/most other Mormon GA are, indeed, my enemies, and I will shed no tears when they have departed this earthly existence and gone on to their "eternal reward," whether it be in paradise or total oblivion, or something else.

But you know, next to Wyoming, perhaps the safest place for a dedicated ex-gay Mormon to be is Utah, especially outside of SLC, where the Church is everywhere, and every bishop can offer the Evergreen option to those who want to be "cured" of their SSA. Your friend might as well have gone to any Utah community (such as Provo) where TBMs make up well over half the population.

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