Monday, October 30, 2006
I still never use any name of deity as a swear. Besides being the only literal prohibition in scripture that I'm aware of in terms of swears, it really does feel wrong to me. I'd drop an F bomb over that any day. And it's the only kind of swear that bothers me in the least.
And being bothered is what I've considered to be important about swears. It's all conventional--which words are naughty and which aren't. My son's Potty Time With Elmo video has an entire segment for all the various words you can use for feces and urine. For social reasons alone, certain words are omitted. They mean the exact same thing, right? So what's the big deal?
That's the line of reasoning that brought me to being a potty mouth. I don't do it in church or around people that I'm afraid will be offended. And I'm pretty much never offended when people swear around me because I take their meaning the way they intend it. Even if they're really cursing up a storm, I take the swears to be no more offensive than spouting their stupid tirade in polite terms would be.
But on the other hand, I do know there are people who are offended by swearing. And I think it's courteous to use more dignified language in deference to them. Those who think nobody deserves deference, least of all religious goody-goodies, are usually self-important snots. [See? It's so hard not to be snarky!] But, that's not to say I'll be offended if they swear, because I stand by my thought that swears are based on societal convention, and reading an individual context is much more effective. Plus, being offended is stupid and I get mad at myself when I do it.
Add to that the fact that the people I look up to most in life never swear, along with the specific language of certain temple covenants I've made, and I think it's time for a change. No more swearing.
I can hardly imagine how I'll manage the d--- thing. Ha!
Sunday, October 29, 2006
I was thinking of positive change in general. When I was in high school applying for a college scholarship, part of the application was to give a motto for my life. Mine was, "always seek positive change," and I thought it was pretty profound. That part of the application never came up during the gazillion interviews that followed and I wonder if the judges thought such a sentiment to be cliché or trite.
When I was growing up, my mother bought stacks and stacks of self-help and inspirational tapes. I think they were meant to inspire her to be successful in the never-ending succession of multi-level marketing companies she joined, but she never quite struck it rich. Regardless, I got a lot of second-hand motivation. And, well, I think it worked a little bit. I did well in school and tried to remember the importance of working toward specific goals. I learned to consider self-improvement a satisfying endeavor.
I wanted blogging to be a means to such an end. Thus, my blog was titled Keep Changing. My blog has done some good things for me in that regard, but it has also backfired.
An e-mail from a friend yesterday pointed out that I can sometimes be "less than polite" when I feel strongly about a topic. It reminded me that my wife has chided me for being too hard on some people I disagree with, and my recent comment in which I went all the way from criticizing to attributing a lack of integrity to a good man, just for the sake of a single argument. I swear, I'm glib, I'm rude, and I excuse myself in a way I never do in real life. At least, not in the past.
Surprisingly, I've found that as I express my sarcastic criticisms and give full place to the swears and the grumbling on my blog, I do it more in my day-to-day interactions as well. I used to think I could have an online persona that was a game, different from myself. And while it was different, it has become more and more consistent with my real self every day. I don't know if it's possible to really separate the two.
So, I'm back to my original goal: deliberate change. Change for the better. Becoming the person I want to be and that God wants me to be.
Saturday, October 28, 2006
The problem is, as was previously mentioned, this book largely sucked. All I really have to say about it that hasn't been said is that fairy tale love isn't always unreal. Bella was in love with Edward so much that she was willing to say "consequences be damned" and go after him despite the whole murderous hunger thing.
My wife is like that. Not delicious, but so in love with me that she was willing to look past the impossibilities on the surface. She still looks past my faults on a regular basis and never ceases to amaze me.
Last week was Sweetest Day. I had never heard of it before this year. I guess it's kind of a regional 2nd Valentine's Day in October. You know, because October needs another holiday based on consuming large amounts of candy. Anyway, my sweetest has proven to me that she's the sweetest of all. Imagine a woman who can look past my faults... who can somehow feel validated even when conventional attraction isn't there to validate. How does she do it? I don't know. I just know she's amazing and I love her and I'm grateful for her.
She makes me happier every day. I hope I can return the favor.
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
I sifted through my questions for the most vital. "Why do you do it?" I said. "I still don't understand how you can work so hard to resist what you... are. Please don't misunderstand, of course I'm glad that you do. I just don't see why you would bother in the first place."
He hesitated before answering. "That's a good question, and you are not the first one to ask it. The others--the majority of our kind who are quite content with our lot--they, too, wonder at how we live. But you see, just because we've been... dealt a certain hand... it doesn't mean that we can't choose to rise above--to conquer the boundaries of a destiny that none of us wanted...."Stephanie Meyer's Twilight, pg. 307
As I stumbled through this book, retching again and again at the writing, I couldn't help but draw comparisons between Edward's situation and my own. I hope that doesn't reflect an inappropriate fixation on sexuality these days--that I can't look anywhere and consider anything to be wholly irrelevant to this blog... ;-) I thought a few book club posts would be a nice diversion from the central topic of this blog, but U Dude expertly picked a book that is relevant in some respects.
The foremost, of course, is the matter of personal choice and identity. Is identity associated at all with inclinations or behavior? Is it something innate or something chosen? What part of us is us? What does our character have to do with our identity?
...We begin, then, with our thoughts and end with our eternal destiny. Our destiny is determined by our character, and our character is the sum and expression of our habits. Character is won by hard work.
Ernest L. Wilkinson, speaking to the students of Brigham Young University, said: “Character … is not something to be obtained by ease and indolence or being socially agreeable. It cannot be acquired by absorption or by proxy or on the auction block. It is a reward derived from honest toil in overcoming difficulties. We grow by mastering tasks which others consider impossible.
This isn't quite the quote I was looking for, but it does speak to the power of overcoming... of our character being a product of our behaviors. And, really, that's what I liked best about Edward, Dr. Cullen, et. al. Despite remarkably strong desires to do something they felt was urgently necessary, they mastered themselves to do what they thought was right.
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Thanks to some really combative and antagonistic examples of anonymous comments, I do think Blogger should have a checkbox next to the anonymous submit button to affirm, "I am writing this anonymously for reasons other than that I am horribly ashamed of myself and want to avoid responsibility for my stupidity and insensitivity." There are legit reasons for posting anonymous comments, but cowards seem to eclipse them with their own hit-and-run tactics.
For example, I have several family members who don't quite have the hang of computers and the internet, but like to keep up with and comment on family blogs. So they use the anonymous feature in lieu of a login, but they usually sign their name too. For folks like these, I keep the anonymous comments enabled on my blog.
On the other hand, there's the "other" kind of anonymous. In this post, someone tried to impersonate me by putting in my pseudonym and blog address. How stupid and annoying is that? I didn't even see the comment until it was pointed out to my later on by someone else. It's enough to make a person paranoid.
So, anyway. Sorry for the boring post. But I do want to say explicitly that anonymous comments are never from me (except a few right after switching to blogger beta that I signed), and even if it looks like it's from me, if it doesn't have my avitar and link to my profile, it's probably not from me. Oh yeah, and if it sounds stupid, there's NO WAY it's from me. ;-)
Monday, October 23, 2006
The principle that Elder Wickman has talked about, in a nutshell, is that if you are trying to live with and maintain ascendancy over same-gender attractions, the best way to do that is to have groups that define their members in terms other than same-gender attractions.Elder Dallin H. Oaks
Blogging has the added benefit of being remote (and therefore less likely to culminate in french kissing). It's the first chance I've ever had to really discuss this issue with anyone who had given it some thought. I enjoy discussing it with faithful saints in a similar situation, as well as nice folks who disagree with the church. The angry screamers I can do without, but they seem to avoid me for the most part. Knock on wood.
But I can't avoid the nagging feeling that Oaks is telling me to be in a group that doesn't define it's members in terms of this issue.
It makes sense, when I consider the small amount of info I have on how cyber-friendships have turned out for others. I know that gay LDS men who have joined online support groups have sometimes been propositioned repeatedly by other members... including nude photos. I know that people have hooked up in person after meeting online--sometimes for supportive fellowship, sometimes for sex, and sometimes for supportive fellowship that is at risk of becoming sex.
For example, what do you make of a virtual stranger who offers to fly to your hotel room when you are lonely and thinking of looking at porn? The ostensible reason is friendship and support. But the circumstances aren't appropriate. I declined the offer not because I didn't trust the person (who very well may read this), but because it didn't seem right. It's scary stuff, these waters we swim in online.
The in-person support groups seem to have just as much baggage, if not more. Would I want to attend even if I had the opportunity? I kind of don't think so. I know they're helpful for some, but at what risk? And when the activities involve camping and sports, what happens when it's time to take showers or bunk down in a tent together remote from civilization?
You know, I'm glad I'm anonymous. It gives me a good excuse not to socialize with other gay LDS guys in person.
But should I blog? Maybe as an island. An independent nation not affiliated with the Queerosphere at large. ;-) I don't see that flying. But, conceptually, it avoids identifying with a group. We'll see...
Friday, October 20, 2006
This is Unusual Dude's book choice, so that puts the onus on you, Dude!
Since Stuart's death, we have learned about and met many devoted Latter-day Saints who have the same challenge as Stuart's and who are faithfully serving in the Church. Because of the homophobia that prevails in society, they have lived secretive lives of quiet desperation.Marilyn Matis in In Quiet Desperation
Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught: "No wonder Apostles and prophets have told us not to be moved away from the hope of the gospel.... The very way in which... illuminated individuals 'take up [the] cross daily' is a sermon in itself. They lead lives not of quiet desperation but of quiet inspiration, constituting what Paul would call their 'defence and confirmation of the gospel.'"
I believe that those who truly understand and have internalized the eternal vision of the plan of salvation and its essential doctrines would never view submission to Christ and their eternal potential as "suppression." And I do not believe that those who understand the glory and majesty of the love of Christ and His infinite atonement would feel "desperate" in their discipleship. As Elder Maxwell pointed out, their hope in Christ transforms their feelings of desperation to inspiration and suppression to submission. In their faith and understanding of the gospel, they maintain a "perfect brightness of hope" for a "better world" (2 Nephi 31:20; Ether 12:4).Ty Mansfield in In Quiet Desperation
There were lots of other quotes from the book I thought about discussing--the discussion of holding fast vs. clinging to the iron rod, a discussion of mixed-orientation marriages, missionary work, etc.--but I think I've already gone on long enough for this title. My favorite quote from the book I never used and I'll save it for some other rainy day.
But for now I recommend... no, I vehemently insist--that you read this book! And my inter-library loan copy should be available for you to check out in a few days if you live near BYU-Idaho's library. ;-)
Index of Matis/Mansfield posts
In Quiet Desperation, 1
Mutually exclusive yearnings
Family and friends
Fat and sassy
Goldilocks and the three queers
Celebrity deathmatch: Mansfield vs. Byrd
In Quiet Desperation, 2
Thursday, October 19, 2006
When I was a given the opportunity to write about this issue, I saw it as chance to further educate people about some of the things I feel the Lord has taught me in regard to what I believe is the true nature of this challenge. I was initially very wary. First of all, writing has never been one of my talents, and I doubted my capacity to put something so sensitive and personal into words in a way that would help others understand why I believe and feel the way I do. Also, I had some idea of the nature of the various responses that were sure to come--I expected criticism from those whose beliefs vary from my own concerning the nature of this attraction and the appropriate response to it.Ty Mansfield in In Quiet Desperation
This book is necessary. It's not perfect, and I could be more critical of a few specifics if I were so inclined, but it's just the thing for a wary LDS audience wanting to jettison congenital prejudice but unsure what attitudes should replace it. The format Ty used of quoting passages he found influential while dealing with same-gender attraction seems reflective of a genuine and intensely personal journey. It's precisely what I'm trying to do right now with my blog. So, I don't find it at all preachy or inappropriate, rather I have a lot of gratitude for the huge work that went into researching and producing such a resource.
And it doesn't hurt that I agree with him on nearly everything. I find his writing to be more insightful than, well, pretty much anything I've read on the subject. There are other great books that take a bit more time on scientific, political, and theoretical things, but this is a great LDS-centered discussion. I don't know what kind of criticisms Ty ended up receiving to those critical of the church's position on homosexuality, but I was surprised to find a supernally stupid review by a group claiming to defend the church's views. I really like some of the articles on that site and I'm more than appalled that their response to Ty's rebuttal fails to concede anything but their own evasiveness. Imagine my disgust at their disappointing hypocrisy. At one point Byrd says:
The view of homosexuality expressed in this book is neither reflective of good science nor gospel doctrine. In fact, the book renders an injustice to homosexual men and women by not letting them know that they can make changes in their lives and that there is hope and sufficient help available through well-established treatment protocols (compatible with revealed scripture) for those who want to conform their lives to the Lord's standards.
Did you even read the book? Or are you just saying that the problem with the book is that the authors convey their own views rather than yours... that it fails to be an advertisement for the scientific bias you've chosen and to which you've attempted to attribute church endorsement! Write your own damn book!
I'm not sure why Fred Matis is the first author when to my knowledge he wrote none of it. Editor? Marilyn's portion was nice and well-done as a narrative example of a typical Mormon mom. I could imagine some of my family member's writing in precisely the same style and interpreting the situations and events precisely the same way. And I love her for it.
So, sure, I could point out a few flaws, but why would I criticize what I believe is the best resource I've encountered (other than my blog, of course) for an LDS man with same-gender attraction?
Some who misunderstand the nature of same-gender attraction would argue that one cannot experience an attraction that is so"unnatural" and still be in God's full favor. Others may claim that one should focus on "changing" and doing all within his or her power to "overcome" same-gender attraction. Although our faith in God may require us to reconcile things in our life that may influence the attraction, putting an unbalanced and unhealthy emphasis and focus on "change" as a prerequisite to happiness or divine love and favor can be counterproductive, discouraging, and emotionally exhausting.
People who experience same-gender attraction may often feel overwhelming pressure to "change" the nature of their attractions, or their sexuality-and they'll do anything to make it happen. There is a strong tendency to feel that no matter what our challenges may be, if we pray more, fast more, read scripture more, or attend church and the temple more, then we can and will "change." Yet, despite how often or how deeply and sincerely many have prayed, fasted, read scripture, or attended the temple, they have continued to experience feelings of same-gender attraction with little or no change in intensity.
We who have the challenge of same-gender attraction have a responsibility to do all we can to understand our feelings or attractions and work to alter anything that may have influenced the attraction, but it is also important to remember that those things in and of themselves cannot alter our natures in any saving way: only Christ can do that.Ty Mansfield in In Quiet Desperation
My last post may have given the impression that I favor obsessing about changing to heterosexual orientation. I don't. I'm more like Goldilocks in that famous fable, Goldilocks and the Three Queers.
Once upon a time, Goldilocks found himself discussing same-gender attraction with three LDS friends who were same-gender attracted. The first friend, who called himself PapaQueer, took a pretty militant stance about same-gender attraction. He felt his feelings were ungodly and he vowed to do anything to change them, because that's the only way he could imagine being happy and pure. He had already been through reparative therapy, fasted til he was thin as a rail, and prayed til his knees were bloody. His eyes had a fire of determination that was both a little inspiring and scary.
MamaQueer, on the other hand, believed her feelings of same-gender attraction were completely acceptable, and indeed, a vital part of who she was. She felt that even given the chance to change her sexual orientation, she would not do it because to do so would be sacrificing an integral part of herself. Her apathy was both a little comforting and scary.
Goldilocks found himself bothered by both of these queers. PapaQueer really seemed to need some therapy. He had an unhealthy self-image and seemed to be in denial. MamaQueer was much happier, but seemed to be oblivious to the conflict between her image of herself and the eternal role Goldilocks understood she could someday fulfill.
Then the wee BabyQueer spoke up. BabyQueer's view seemed just right. He accepted his same-gender attraction as an incidental part of his identity, nothing to worry about necessarily, but also as something that needed some careful attention as sexuality is an important issue. He wanted his views to deepen and mature with healthy mental attitudes and spiritual insights, and so gave the matter quite a bit of thought. "Change" was never out of the question. In fact, change seemed like the best solution and worth some investigation. However, if change were not possible, that would be okay. He planned to spend time thinking and reading on the subject, but to avoid obsessing about it or making it the primary concern of his life. Deliberate and proactive, but not obsessive.
Goldilocks wanted to kiss BabyQueer, but realized that would be counter-productive. So, he left and went to sleep because it's going to be a long night in the hospital.
Monday, October 16, 2006
Although we may wish for all challenges to be taken away on this side of the veil, the Lord may have other plans for us. We do try, however, to encourage each young man who visits us to stop focusing on trying to change his sexual orientation. We feel that if a person focuses only on changing from a homosexual orientation to a heterosexual orientation, he or she fails to see that same-gender attraction is only a very small part of who he or she really is.Marilyn Matis in In Quiet Desperation
No... wait a minute. [Silently doing math in my head.]
I don't see why focusing on something that concerns you is a bad thing. Sure, we may ask and be denied several times for the thorn of our flesh, whatever it is, to be taken away. But is the asking a bad idea? I don't think so at all. It's a good idea (with all the caveats and perspective fine-tuned).
And despite all the talk of learning from challenges, and how challenges are blessings, etc., at the end of the day I'm happy to be through with them. There will always be more, and if this challenge can be completely eliminated rather than relegated to the backseat, all the better. Either way, I recognize that I'm much more than this one challenge. 225 pounds more, to be exact.
P.S. I'm not that fat.
P.P.S. Many apologies to any of you who are.
Friday, October 13, 2006
Some do refer to same-gender attraction as their "weakness," as if it were some kind of spiritual illness, often quoting the words of Moroni about the Lord giving "men weakness that they may be humble" (Ether 12:27). But to refer to same-gender attraction as a "weakness" can be misguided. Our challenges and our temptations are not what should be considered "weak," for it is through challenge and opposition that we are made strong--if we will turn to Christ and to the power and grace He offers through His atoning sacrifice. Our challenges simply reveal unto us our true weaknesses or spiritual illnesses--the doubt and fear of putting our lives completely in the Lord's hands--and the weakness of faith in God that would allow us to submit to whatever challenges or temptations beset us. Christ was tempted, and He had challenges, but He was never weak.Ty Mansfield in In Quiet Desperation
It occurs to me before I get started that I may just be splitting hairs. But, actually, that's what I do sometimes. ;-) I have to take issue with Ty on the weakness issue (and probably with a majority of everyone else too!). I consider it wholly appropriate to refer to SGA as a "weakness" or a "problem". That's exactly how I think of it. However, in my mind, there's no moral culpability with that. So, yes, I agree at least that it isn't a spiritual weakness.
Let me make an analogy to, well, weakness itself. After a stroke, a person may have weakness. There's nothing "wrong" with that person in the moral sense, no reason to discriminate, but it's a real weakness nonetheless. There's something "wrong" with them in the physical sense. One might apply Ty's argument to say, "Our challenges [like muscular weakness] are not what should be considered 'weak,' for it is through challenge and opposition that we are made strong--if we will turn to Christ and to the power and grace He offers through His atoning sacrifice." After some physical therapy, muscular weakness may be made strong, but there's a chance the effects of the stroke will be permanent, through no fault of that person's. It may be that the person is "made strong" by accepting appropriate occupational therapy to learn new ways to accomplish activities of daily living given the permanent residual weakness. So one can be strong in one's weakness. But it's still a weakness.
I can understand the sense of celebration associated with Coming Out Day considering the importance of achieving conceptual maturity by accepting oneself as gay and not being ashamed. But, for me, accepting myself as gay (or, more specifically, as same-gender attracted) without shame achieves that same celebration-worthy insight while I still believe there's something "wrong" with it. Being attracted to men isn't wrong in the moral sense, but it's definitely wrong in the reproductive sense, an important part of who I am eternally. It's a weakness--one that may or may not be changed in this life--but, as Ty apparently doesn't care to hear, it's a weakness that I believe Moroni's words very much apply to, and that one way or another can be made strong.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
In addition, Matthew told us that as he thought about all his friends who struggle because of same-gender attraction, he quickly realized that the friends who seem to have the most peace in their lives are the friends who have told their parents about their challenge. We have encouraged the young men who have met with us to be as patient and as understanding with their parents as they want their parents to be with them. The parents will have to go through a learning curve, and, in most cases, the parents are trying very hard to understand their child's challenge.Marilyn Matis in In Quiet Desperation
My parents do not know I'm gay. And if they've suspected, I've given them plenty of reason to suppress any concerns they may have had by providing them with such empiric data as a wife and child. And, given their zealous conservative adherence (and over-adherence) to perceived doctrine, I don't imagine them being the most comfortable with the idea. I mean, they would be, after a while... if I could manage the patience Marilyn is asking for, but I don't really want to go through the in-between time. I'd rather just skip to the part where they're as accepting and comfortable with it as I am. But it took me decades to get here.
When I think about the folks I've met through their blogs, there seems to be a definite pattern (not without exceptions) that family knowledge and support of the issue makes one better able to accept and deal with being gay. I'd say parents are the most important for a single guy, and wife is most important for a married one. Those intimate partners (parents and spouse) are invested in every part of one's happiness and life.
There are, of course, some folks who have too many issues of their own to be able to help deal with a child or spouse's sexuality concerns. Sharing with such folks might make the road harder rather than easier. But I think they are few and far between. At least, that's my optimistic hope.
I've had a lot of support from friends who know I'm gay though. For me, these friends have been bloggers, for others they are real-life face-to-face people. The in-person kind of friends have benefits and drawbacks though. For example, contacts in the gay world can offer perspective and insight family can't approach on some topics, but they also bring a package deal of potential temptation and, well, sometimes betrayal.
At some point (I don't know when), I'll share this burden with my parents. Perhaps I'll link to this blog in an e-mail. Ha! Wouldn't that be the chicken way to get it all out on the table! They could research my story to their hearts' content. Of course, they'd also find out what a potty-mouth I am and that I occasionally have watched R rated movies, and that would probably weigh on them more than my being gay (what with being gay not being a sin and cussing being a perfectly volitional thing)!
Oh, dear family, if you read this, don't worry! I'll repent when I'm good and damn ready.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
There was even a period when I no longer wanted the gospel truths I had been taught and grown to love to be true so the incongruities in my heart and mind would be less agonizing.... For a while, the only thing that kept me from fully following through with my attraction and seeking a long-term homosexual relationship was not that I believed I couldn't find some level of genuine fulfillment or temporal happiness in such a relationship, if it were loving and committed. Rather, it was the simple truth that I knew my having a romantic relationship with a man could never be eternal, and I didn't want to give my whole heart and soul and life to a relationship that could not last beyond this mortal existence. One thing I've always held a firm conviction of--even in my moments of doubt and wavering faith--is the eternal nature of the family.Ty Mansfield in In Quiet Desperation
Here is such a succinct assessment of the conflict a gay Mormon faces, and yet there are still scores of folks who don't seem to get it. People think you can just choose not to believe the church anymore if its teachings make life harder. They think that a gay Mormon's choosing not to have a gay relationship is caving to an arbitrary and discriminatory decree from old-fashioned leaders who aren't familiar with scientific fact. They think it's giving up a part of your humanity for nothing but depression, self-hate, and denial.
No, it's not like that. It's having faith in eternal families--a principle that burns itself into your heart and isn't easily erased; a beautiful and inspiring principle that holds more joy than any other pure concept from life I've experienced. And yet, I too have wanted at times for it to be untrue because my deepest visceral yearnings pull me in another direction--a mutually exclusive direction that finds immediate joy in experiences that are antithetical to eternal families.
Ty is a smart guy. It would have been interesting to hear him speak at Evergreen Conference.
Sunday, October 08, 2006
I can see how suicide causes all sorts of tormented feelings on the part of loved ones left behind. The simultaneous horrors of losing a loved one, having that loved one do something terrible, having him be the victim of something terrible, him having no chance to repent or work through the issue, thinking you may have lost him for the next life as well, along with the guilt our human nature foists upon us that we might have stopped it "if only I had...," all combine for a grim eulogy.
During her discussion of her son's suicide in In Quiet Desperation, Marilyn Matis makes this odd observation: "Although losing our son was difficult, it has been comforting to know that he was faithful to his temple covenants." I've heard this statement criticized as implying that it was better for Stuart to have killed himself than to have given in to his gay desires, but I don't read it that way. The subsequent sentence reads: "Fred and I each had an indescribable feeling of peace that lasted for several weeks after Stuart's death." How is such a peace possible given the horror of suicide? Given the sin of suicide?
It's as if Sister Matis sees the suicide itself as, well, not counting. I wonder if it was a spiritual confirmation that all the good Stuart had accomplished in his life was not negated by that one act. Or, perhaps, that he wasn't accountable for the act at all. Elder Ballard has given some guidance on suicide that indicates there are occasions when a person's state of mind excludes culpability.
In more general terms, Elder Oaks has talked about exceptions where one is not accountable for an action that would in some other context be grievous sin. Prior to the quote below he gave the example of a man who wanted reassurance from Elder Oaks that his involvement in military combat would not constitute a violation of the commandment thou shalt not kill:
...The explanation I gave that man is the same explanation I give to you if you feel you are an exception to what I have said [about the commandment of marriage]. As a General Authority, I have the responsibility to preach general principles. When I do, I don’t try to define all the exceptions. There are exceptions to some rules. For example, we believe the commandment is not violated by killing pursuant to a lawful order in an armed conflict. But don’t ask me to give an opinion on your exception. I only teach the general rules. Whether an exception applies to you is your responsibility. You must work that out individually between you and the Lord.
Perhaps Stuart's suicide was an exception, given the circumstances of his life and his mental health. Perhaps it is not inaccurate or inappropriate to find solace in the goodness of his life, e.g. in his faithfulness to his temple covenants. At the same time, suicides by those whose lives appear less worthy shouldn't be judged by anyone other than Him whose knowledge is perfect. And we can all have more hope knowing that "The dead who repent will be redeemed, through obedience to the ordinances of the house of God."
Friday, October 06, 2006
...When Stuart wrote that he was sure his suicide would come as a surprise, he was mistaken. I knew he would eventually take his life. I had even discussed with Paul what we could do to stop Stuart from carrying out his plan. Paul told me there was nothing we could do--he said that if we were to turn Stuart in for help, he would be put into a mental hospital. Paul added, "Then Stuart will hate you, and nothing you can do will stop him. You will only delay the inevitable."Marilyn Matis in In Quiet Desperation
This last week when several Amish schoolgirls were murdered in Pennsylvania, I saw several writers comment on how sexual repression led the man to the unhealthy state of mind in which he could do such an atrocious thing. I agree that guilt about sexuality, especially when kept secret, can canker and fester and destroy a person. That's one reason I'm still blogging and working through this issue despite my previous sentiments about moving on, having broader goals, and focusing on different issues. This has been a tremendous outlet of emotions and thoughts and dialog that would otherwise be impossible. Getting it out there and talking about it has normalized my life in many ways.
Stuart, apparently, didn't really get his feelings normalized adequately. Not that he wasn't out to some friends and family who were available and willing to help, but he wasn't getting the depth and quality of attention he needed for his issues. Such depth may require intensive cognitive and behavioral therapy. It may require medications. And yes, it may require involuntary hospitalization. This is a good thing, my friends. It gets people the help they need and keeps them from making an irrevocable mistake like suicide. Whether he would hate his family for it is irrelevant. Whether it was necessary is all too clear in retrospect. Whether the suicide was inevitable is debatable (I don't ever believe that).
I've admitted multiple patients with suicidal ideation to the hosptial for observation recently. It's an illness that can be addressed. The reason suicide seems necessary to a person isn't for this circumstance or that situation, it's because there is a mental illness that must be addressed directly.
A close family member recently shocked us by shooting himself in the head. The warning signs had been there, but he was unwilling to voluntarily get the help he needed. Thankfully, he's doing well after several surgeries, and now he's finally getting the care he needs--both medical and psychiatric. There's nothing whatsoever to be ashamed of in that.
Whatever the stigma society assigns to mental illnesses--sustaining such epithets as psycho and crazy--they are no reason not to allow oneself to get the legitimate help that is available for real problems. It isn't simply "all in the head."
Thursday, October 05, 2006
This challenge has been terribly difficult for me, and I have done a lot of murmuring myself, but as the Lord has helped me to see more fully His dealings with me and the rest of His children, I have felt much less inclined to murmur and more inclined to faithfully submit...
It has been difficult for me--as one who experiences same-gender attraction, a challenge that often seems impossible to bear and remain faithful--to recognize the possibility that my cross is not more unbearable than those that others may be called to carry; to be sure, it is different, but it is not unequal or more unbearable...Ty Mansfield in In Quiet Desperation
When I read the Oaks and Wickman interview on lds.org, there were a few parts that raised my eyebrows. One such part was when Wickman said:
We live in a very self-absorbed age. I guess it’s naturally human to think about my own problems as somehow greater than someone else’s. I think when any one of us begins to think that way, it might be well be to look beyond ourselves. Who am I to say that I am more handicapped, or suffering more, than someone else?
I read this as minimizing the challenges someone with same-gender attraction faces. He proceeds to describe the challenge his handicapped daughter faces, and my reaction was to wonder if he really had any understanding of what all is involved with same-gender attraction. I wondered how he could compare a physical disability that would rule out marriage in this life with a situation like mine--one of psychological torment in which I wrestle mostly secretly with feelings of despair, worthlessness, and futility knowing that I am perfectly capable of finding physical gratification but that my incessant yearning must be squelched. In some ways I would prefer to not have the desire at all, to accept a physically handicapped life of being sterile or something of that nature. It's a combo package of loneliness, hopelessness, and unending temptation, or so it has seemed to me at times.
I suppose his point was an apt one after all--I do find myself thinking that I have suffered more than others when I know in my sane moments that that is absolutely laughable. I've never experienced poverty, genocide like in Darfur, domestic violence and sexual abuse, progressive terminal disease, intractable pain, a child locked in a basement for years... the list goes on.
I'll take my challenges I suppose. The Lord knows me, and he knows what will make me the man he wants me to be.
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
In truth, these chapters are much more about the gospel through the eyes of one individual who experiences same-gender attraction than they are about same-gender attraction itself. To be certain, these chapters are about "change," and they are about "overcoming" but not in the same way usually referred to in discussion on homosexuality.... These chapters are about a "change" of heart (Helaman 15:7) and of "overcoming" the world (John 16:33) through faith in Jesus Christ....Ty Mansfield in In Quiet Desperation
My counselor several months ago was recommending books to me and suggested In Quiet Desperation wasn't the best one and that I would be best served by trying some others. I don't remember what our conversation was about exactly, but his suggestion may have been because at that point I was looking for more clinical and scientific information about homosexuality and reparative therapy.
Now that I've started In Quiet Desperation, I think I should fire him. I really like it a lot. I was further prepared to hate the book because of some critical comments circulating around the blogs several months ago, many by really smart folks I respect a ton. So, imagine my surprise when I finally got my hands on a copy and love it so far! It fits with my observation about most things in life--set your expectations low and you'll usually be pleasantly surprised. ;-)
The quote above is my favorite so far because it jives with something Elder Wickman said that has been weighing heavy in the back of my mind:
Ultimately, the wisest course for anybody who’s afflicted with same-gender attraction is to strive to extend one’s horizon beyond just one’s sexual orientation, one’s gender orientation, and to try to see the whole person. If I’m one that’s afflicted with same-gender attraction, I should strive to see myself in a much broader context… seeing myself as a child of God with whatever my talents may be, whether intellect, or music, or athletics, or somebody that has a compassion to help people, to see myself in a larger setting and thus to see my life in that setting.
The more a person can look beyond gender orientation, the happier and more fulfilling life is likely to be. The worst possible thing for any of us — no matter what our temptations, no matter what our mortal inclinations may be — is to become fixated with them, to dwell on them. When we do that, not only do we deny the other things that comprise us, but experience teaches that there will be an increased likelihood that eventually we will simply succumb to the inclination.
So, I think I'll be focusing more on the gospel as I go along. I do see myself in the larger context--this is only one part of my life. But I must admit that my mind goes to this blog much more frequently than it does, say, the scriptures. Ty is wise, and Wickman is inspired. I'll be adopting Ty's approach I think. It feels so right considering my recent frantic grasping for some strength and solidity in meeting my challenges. And then at General Conference the message over and over was that whatever your challenges may be, you need to rely on the Savior for mercy and comfort.
I feel much better.
Index of Matis/Mansfield posts
In Quiet Desperation, 1
Mutually exclusive yearnings
Family and friends
Fat and sassy
Goldilocks and the three queers
Celebrity deathmatch: Mansfield vs. Byrd
In Quiet Desperation, 2
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Step 2 focuses on having hope through Jesus Christ. It seems like an appropriate follow-up after all the General Conference talks I heard that reminded me that the Savior is key in dealing with my life's challenges.
But here's the problem: relying on Christ to take away my sins means taking away my sins, not just making my sins okay. I need to actually stay away from the porn, not just feel like I'm doing the best that I can and therefore it's all okay. A friend of mine told me recently when we were discussing porn, "you have to allow yourself the experience of being human." I found that very comforting at the time, but on further reflection, it's the experience of being divine that I want to allow myself.
I'm looking to deny myself of all ungodliness, but I've been looking to do it in the wrong way. Apparently, and this is so hard for me to believe, I'm not strong enough to do it. I can't do it... I can't do it.
I can't do it.
Huh. That's not really a common refrain for a post about overcoming a problem.
And yet, that's the whole point. I have such a hard time letting it go and letting Christ in to deal with this. I don't know why. I've been sitting here staring at the page trying to do the workbook assignment for a long time this evening and I'm just not feeling the peace. I'm fighting it for some reason. I don't want to go pray. I want to go porn. (My immediate reaction is to delete that, or qualify it, or something... but it's true. It's a deep rooted want.)
My trigger response to this situation has been to steel myself for the fight ahead. The fight that will hurt and be miserable and that I'll almost certainly fail as I have every time in the past. I grit my teeth and think, "Nobody's going to control you, make you do the right thing, or get you through this but yourself. It's your battle to fight. Just make it happen."
But that's all wrong. I'm failing because I'm fighting alone. I'm trying to be strong enough, and I'm not strong enough. The Lord's yoke is easy and His burden is light. I don't have to do it alone. Why am I such a spiritual delinquint? Why can't I actually get myself to understand and believe this? To really feel it?
I've got to let go, and I don't know how. I need to avoid touching evil gifts. I need hope.
We should not underestimate or overlook the power of the Lord’s tender mercies. The simpleness, the sweetness, and the constancy of the tender mercies of the Lord will do much to fortify and protect us in the troubled times in which we do now and will yet live. When words cannot provide the solace we need or express the joy we feel, when it is simply futile to attempt to explain that which is unexplainable, when logic and reason cannot yield adequate understanding about the injustices and inequities of life, when mortal experience and evaluation are insufficient to produce a desired outcome, and when it seems that perhaps we are so totally alone, truly we are blessed by the tender mercies of the Lord and made mighty even unto the power of deliverance (see 1 Nephi 1:20).Elder David A. Bednar
Monday, October 02, 2006
Sunday, October 01, 2006
It got me thinking though. I imagine that detail was relevant because of his experience. He does live in a neighborhood where a lot of crimes are committed by black teenagers. And the general stereotype presented in media is that teenage hoodlums, gang members, and thugs, are typically black. But, I have many close friends who are black who are wonderfully gifted, honest people who suffer from such stereotypes.
I see a lot of black people in our Emergency Department. I wish I could report that there was absolutely no difference between blacks and other races as they present in the ED, but there are. There have been some belligerent and unreasonable patients with a particular issue that have all been black. All. Without exception. Instead of accepting that association as a fact generalizable to all blacks, I consciously remind myself that it is NOT generalizable.
So how do I use such information? Very carefully, if I'm at my best. If I or my family have been burned for trusting in a particular set of circumstances, it would be foolish not for me to take caution when met with those circumstances in the future. And given how limited my own experience is, it's prudent to learn from the experiences of others. And that leads to judging individuals based on the most prevalent actions of a particular demographic. Racial profiling. Discrimination.
Although the popular notion these days is to be completely tolerant and non-discriminating on the basis of race, sexual orientation, etc., I think that's way oversimplified. Sorry to say it, and I recognize the unpopular and vulnerable position such a thought places me in, but I'm learning and willing to take the hits if it teaches me something valuable. A more nuanced position is to minimize the harm. Sometimes minimizing harm will involve erring on the side of caution--being more careful in certain circumstances because of who someone is based on my experience, all the while recognizing that I could be completely safe and the person may be offended because of my caution. Other times I will have to play that against the harm experienced by a person who is not typical, who does not fit the data, who bucks the trends. Such people can be truly harmed by being treated differently for someone else's crimes.
Someone like me could be harmed.
So, yeah, I can see how a parent wouldn't want his daughter to marry someone like me based on the data. Based on conventional wisdom, he'd want his loved one to be safe from the nearly universal failure reported for mixed orientation marriages. But after getting to know me... after learning about my values and my integrity, I think I could demonstrate that I'm an exception.
Specifically, racism is a metaphor for generalizations about gays being promiscuous and mixed orientation marriages failing: two topics more close to home. I have a personal belief that the data presented on both of those topics is rapidly becoming outdated as society changes. It would be a terrible mistake to pronounce final judgement on individuals based on such stereotypes. Caution and respect are both necessary for understanding and acting on the data--the common, the uncommon, and the ideal.