Saturday, July 29, 2006

1-800-Gay-LDS2

Thank you for calling the Gay and LDS too hotline. Your call may be recorded for training or vindictive purposes. Please choose from the following options:
  • Press 1 if you choose to remain faithful LDS and stay celibate for the rest of your life
  • Press 2 if you choose to be true to your gay feelings and abandon your LDS background
  • Press 3 if you choose to have one foot in and one out of the LDS church while you flirt with gay love
  • Press 4 if you choose to remain faithful LDS and plan to ruin your spouse's and children's lives by trying a mixed straight/gay marriage
  • Press 5 if you choose to live a fully gay life and pretend that it is not inconsistent with your LDS faith
  • Press 6 if you are foolish enough to believe that reparative therapy is worth a try--don't worry, you can come back to this menu when you fail
  • Press 7 if you find none of these choice to be acceptable and you wish to commit suicide
  • Press 8 to repeat this menu.
I think pretty much everyone hates automated customer service lines. I've worked in customer service, so I recognize why they are a big help to the company's bottom line, but they annoy customers. They try to anticipate every possible customer need and solve all your problems by interacting with a numeric keypad.

Maybe it's just me, but life seems too complicated to be boiled down to a nested series of numbered lists. I usually end up wading through the system for about 5 minutes until I've listened to 3 or 4 submenus and it finally gives me the option to speak to a person. I could have told them my situation was going to require a real human brain from the beginning, they just didn't give me the option!

Why do I constantly hear the options for a gay LDS man presented as tidy false dilemmas?

"I had to decide between being true to myself and living a life of misery."

"I could never be celibate for my entire life and that's what staying in the church would mean."

"I could never marry a woman--it would be unfair of me even to ask. And it wouldn't be fair to my kids."

"I tried reparative therapy and it didn't work. I tried hard. For approximately 30 seconds."

Being gay and Mormon can be played out a lot of ways. The very real conflict I face seems to be described with glib empathy issuing from gay-friendly folks all the time. There's no help and no workable solution coming from the church, they say. I once commented on a gay thread with my real identity (not out) in an online forum discussion. I was criticized as being unempathetic--I was told to imagine myself as a gay man and I would see why I never should have said such things.

Well, guess what? I do say such things. And I happen to be gay, thank you very much. I think a gay man can live a life inside the church happily, sexually active, and worthily. Sure, it took me 4 or 5 years of dating for me to finally come out to the woman who would soon afterward be my wife. Sure, it hasn't been a bed of roses. Sure, I'm not a perfect LDS member. But, I think all things considered, God has had good things in store for me, and they showed up in his good time. I'm happily married, true to the church, and no longer lonely and celibate. I think he intends the same for everyone. And by "the same" I mean wildly different but still ultimately good.

15 comments:

Samantha said...

Yeah...me too.

By the way, I loved the telephone options...those were tongue in cheek??? Do mean to say there are OTHER options???

Feeling sarcastic today...so...shutting up now...

Beck said...

Sometimes I feel that those ARE the only options out there! We each have unique situations - I hate being stereotyped. What I'm feeling with my personal baggage and situation, commitments, level of testimony and beliefs etc. combined with my unique experiences cannot be so easily summarized into a neat package, nor a concise counseling visit.

Thanks for the sad but true humor.

mark said...

Is there a place in all of these options, L, for a guy who has decided to live as a gay man, to look for a relationship with another man, and who wants to list a Christian life, to be monogamous, to not live the "circuit boy" lifestyle? Sometimes I get the impression that you don't see that as a possibility...if you give up Mormonism, you give up virture, morality, holiness, and everything good.

Maybe I am being unfair, though...on further reflection, I realize that what you have been trying to say, through so many posts, is just that you want respect for the choices you have made to suppress your sexual orientation in order to honour religious beliefs and your covenants. I cannot but respect that. Which is to say, I have great respect for those who place principle and what is right above their own convenience. I hate to say it because it sounds either really cheesy or really self-righteous but I really do believe in the idea that virtue is its own reward. So I admire your determination and resolve.

At the same time, I hope that you will not look down on someone like me who believes or at least wants to believe that he can live as a gay man and be faithful to God as best he can. I don't pretend that I can be a Latter-day Saint and be an out gay man. I am not particularly interested in campaigning to change the church. Frankly, as I have said before, I no longer believe the Church's truth claims. Believe me, I wanted desperately to believe it. I fought myself for twenty years in order to uphold it. Even as I crept slowly toward coming out, I fought with my psychiatrist about the church for months. But as I have studied it out, I have become convinced that there are just too many problems with the truth claims for me to believe it any more. I sense from some of the remarks you have made here and elsewhere that you down have too much respect for those who leave the church. I sense that you see such individuals as being weak, or traitors, or essentially just selfish jerks who change the truth to fit with what is easiest for them to live. Perhaps that is true, but I have to say I am a little tired of living a life where I feel that if I am gay, it's my fault, that I will never be good enough, I will never measure up, that I will always be looked down upon. If I become active in the church again, but down get married, I will be looked down on for failing to fulfill the greatest responsibility that any priesthood holder could have. If I do get married, things will be okay, I guess, so long as I keep total control over myself. But if my wife is unsatisfied with our sexual life, it will again be my fault because as a gay man I can't give her all that she wants or deserves. If I don't maintain total control, and fall into temptation, again it will be my fault. Frankly, even if I do everything right, there will always be something I should be doing better, that I am not good enough at. And as a gay man, in a church that has no real place for being gay, I will always have that failing to help me to feel never good enough. Frankly, I can't live in that type of system any more.

I am sorry if this has become a rant, but this post and a few others you have made recently have set me to thinking. I don't mean to be hostile and please forgive me if I have been. But I want to be honest about my feelings about these things, and am very interested in hearing your response and that of others.

mark said...

In my previous post, in the last paragraph, a couple of times where I meant to write "don't" I wrote "down" for some reason. Please read it with that correction in mind.

-L- said...

Mark, you can always re-post your comment with any corrections and then delete the first one if nobody has commented in the interim. I do this all the time because I make typos all the time!

Mark, I'm really glad you commented. I always feel like I'm kissing up to you by telling you that, but it's true. The brief "attaboy" comments don't help me think through things quite as well as a "rant". (But by all means, those of you who like to say nice things, please don't hesitate!) I would enjoy being in touch with you outside the blog, but alas, you have no blog of your own and no e-mail.

When you said some of my previous posts made you think I have disdain for those who leave the church, I assume you were referring largely to the post in which I said my experience has been that people leave for prideful reasons. The flurry of negative comments from people who had left the church surprised me not only because it suggested someone outside my regular 3 or 4 commenters reads this blog on occasion, but because I had made personal reference to none of them. Regardless, they all took it personally. I was talking about people in my experience. I don't know you and I don't know them. Further, I had specifically discussed with Chris in an early comment my confidence that some people leave the church for idealistic and honorable reasons (however misguided I may ultimately believe them to be).

This message of this post was intended to be that a gay person who wants to be true to the church can make it work, despite that it may seem at times that there are no workable options. I believe that to be true. I believe that it's precisely because I've held on to that ideal that I'm in a good place. The message was not supposed to be a condemnation of the awful rotten folks who leave the church.

If you don't believe the church to be true and don't believe anything is wrong with gay love, then I have nothing but respect for your desire to find a monogamous loving partner and to live a virtuous life together.

I should probably stop there, but you may just think I'm disingenuous. Perhaps the reason you feel negative implications from some of my posts is that I also believe a person who leaves the church out of convenience and lasciviousness is not worthy of that same respect. If faith crumbles deliberately to an end, well, then it's just pride and sin.

I try not to judge you or anyone else. I just think through things because I have a lot of figuring to do. Thanks again for the comment.

-L- said...

Oh yeah. I should probably add that I'm a pretty prideful person myself. You may think I'm sanctimonious for some of my comments, but I'm not deluded into thinking I'm above my own criticisms... if that makes sense.

...if I am gay, it's my fault, that I will never be good enough,... I will be looked down on..., it will again be my fault ..., again it will be my fault...there will always be something I should be doing better, that I am not good enough at. And as a gay man, in a church that has no real place for being gay, I will always have that failing to help me to feel never good enough.

This reminds me of the false dilemmas I was partly writing about. I hope you had a chance to read my last post too. You and I face a challenge (affirming gay or not) from society and life that few can understand. As a great bishop helped me understand, it shouldn't be about fault finding or focusing on failures, it should be about the great man that you are for trying your best to do right. That's what the message of the church is, even if some of its leaders and members don't realize it or don't convey it.

Sorry I couldn't squeeze that all into a single reply!

Beck said...

Okay... I'll try to not just give you an "attaboy" and be a bit more provacative:

Can there be a telephone option that says: trying desperately to stay faithful to covenants made to wife one still loves after 20+ years, while desperately trying to understand one's passion for men, particularly the tall, strong, young and beautiful type and keeping both faith and passion within healthy terms while demystifying both - AND - staying within the realms of a healthy and sane self-esteme at the same time?

Go ahead... laugh! I am!

Gay Mormon said...

5.

I really wish this were an actual voice menu ... I'd love to see where my choice takes me ...

GM

Chris (hurricane) said...

I always start pounding away on "0" because I know that will get me to a live person eventually.
_____

Mark, thanks for your comments. It seems like we have had very similiar experiences and are coming out with a similiar view of how to move forward as openly gay. You have put into words much of what I feel.

Chris (hurricane) said...

L:

You say this: Perhaps the reason you feel negative implications from some of my posts is that I also believe a person who leaves the church out of convenience and lasciviousness is not worthy of that same respect. If faith crumbles deliberately to an end, well, then it's just pride and sin.

And in the VERY NEXT SENTENCE you say this: I try not to judge you or anyone else.

Ironic.

Isn't the message of the gospel of Christ one of charity and love? Didn't Christ himself implore us to walk another mile with our brother in need? How can you know someone's motivations or intentions with regard to the church or anything else unless you've made the effort to walk that extra mile? Oh, it's sin and pride...

I guess what I'm trying to say is if you don't want to judge people who are making different choices than you, then don't.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, L, for your comments. My e-mail address is northstud@rocketmail.com (such a presumptuous name...I don't know what possessed me to choose, other than a momentary lapse into thinking I'm some kind of stud...HAHAHAHAHA) so if anyone wants to write me off-line, please feel free to do so.

Thanks, Chris, for your comments too. One of the great things at blogs and the Web is that it has given lots of different people who felt themselves to be alone an opportunity to discover that they aren't! It has helped me a lot to read the experiences of others and to hear other people say things that I completely relate to.

Regarding the whole issue of judging...I try not to judge others and to give them the benefit of the doubt, to assume honourable motives until proved otherwise. But I think it is ultimately impossible to completely avoid judgment. In fact, I think we have to judge in order to survive...otherwise, we would live in a kind of chaos where we wouldn't be navigate our waay around.

I used to be totally dogmatic about Mormonism. I found it pretty hard not to look down on the poor, deceived people all around me. I was SO sure that I KNEW THE TRUTH. I wanted to understand everything and to be totally orthodox. I tried to align myself to the Brethren in everything.

Now, I have adopted a position that I have described before of being tentative, of having some confidence in my own position but not too much because I may be wrong, of not being too quick to dismiss the views of others because they might be right. I think this is a better position, because I think there is a danger in believing one has found the truth that one closes one's mind and heart to the voice of heaven and the word of reason.

mark said...

I did it again...the anonymous comment is by me. I don't seem to be able to delete comments, L...is that because I am not a blogger?

AttemptingThePath said...

loved your insight!

-L- said...

Chris: I always start pounding away on "0" because I know that will get me to a live person eventually.

But that's the problem! Some systems won't let you do that! They're usually evil "trial offer" response systems that give you confusing options with double-negatives where you're not sure whether pushing a particular button will get you cancelled or get you a 5 year contract. And of course, for these folks, pushing 0 only gets you a snippy recorded rebuke that you're not so good at following instructions.

It's just wrong.

But there I go being judgmental. Unapologetically, I suppose. I agree with Mark that judgment is a necessary part of life. It's just the "how, what, and why" of judgment that separates the forbidden kind from the favorable. I try to avoid judging specific individuals, but I specifically judge sets of circumstances because that's how I make informed decisions for my own life. I suppose we all do. And, once in a while I probably judge inappropriately or overly harshly, but I never claimed to be perfect. Feel free to call me out.

The pitfalls and perils of judging are worthy of more thought and writing, certainly. I don't think I've said anything particularly judgmental of Mark or you. To the extent it appears that way, I apologize.

Chris (hurricane) said...

We all make judgments, I agree. And I think we all too often excuse ourselves from being judgmental because of it.

You've said nothing that I have found judgmental of me--so no worries there.