Thursday, May 31, 2007

Gay anarchy

Enigma suggested to me the other day the need for a For the Strength of Gay Youth pamphlet to help SSA people know what is okay and what is not in their unique situation. Yes, we both know that Affirmation already has taken that clever step, but I'm not such a big fan of Affirmation and I'd rather have it from someone I trust (and minimally agree with).

Considering the recent debates about cuddling, outing oneself, straight dating, etc... it makes sense that there ought to be some informed guidance for a guy or girl who wants to keep it all above board. Who do you tell? When? What situations should be avoided?

Of course, the issue is not one that applies merely to the youth. Enigma also mentioned in his comment on my last post that he's apprehensive about coming out because of potential consequences from the scouting organization or the ward. So... what do you do in a situation like that? Stand up and be a martyr so that you can educate the people around you regarding the issue? Or continue as you have before where you can serve the young men and touch those private lives in a way that might otherwise be impossible?

The automatic inclination among gays is going to be to assume that restricting callings based on orientation is just simply born of ignorance, but I don't think it's that simple. I suspect that the young women leaders are always women to keep any possibility for impropriety at bay (ditto the young men leaders being men). As my mom is fond of saying, "we should avoid even the appearance of evil." Considering the likelihood that there will be homosexually attracted youth in pretty much every sizable ward, there's an analogous possibility for the appearance of or actual impropriety in a scenario with a gay leader.

But it's not a perfect analogy, of course. Some suggest (and I believe) that coping with SSA is aided with non-sexual relationships with other men. This is particularly true of men whom one finds attractive, the idea being that a friendship reveals the real person and their appeal is normalized and largely mitigated. Some gay men may have painful memories of their youth and consequently idealize the outgoing, talented guys in the ward. So, in may be helpful to both the youth who need a good role model and the gay leader to have such a calling, despite the remote possibility of scandal.

Considering the homophobic culture that clings to some wards despite explicit doctrine of acceptance (of unchosen gay feelings), there hasn't been enough opportunity for those who have been in situations like this to really stand up and say whether it's been an overall positive or negative experience.

Regardless, the scouting organization, while on friendly terms with the church, may have a completely different approach. And, as Enigma pointed out, it's not likely to be particularly gay friendly, even with the distinction between unchosen feelings and behavior (and a straight-married gay). So, yeah. Major problem.

So, I hereby call to order an online policy making session in which people should discuss what the guidelines should be and why. If the brethren give us a set, I'll be delighted. In the mean time, how do you recommend bringing order to the gay anarchy? ;-)

Sunday, May 27, 2007

No Easy Outs

I've seen several posts discussing coming out as a way to be more honest about ourselves and to be who we really are as unapologetically as possible. I appreciate the importance of these things. However, I'm still not out to anyone I see on a regular basis except my wife. There are several reasons for that, and perhaps the most weighty in my mind is the fact that once out you can't go back in. The finality of coming out (whether perceived or actual) demands some pretty careful consideration.

As far as sexuality goes, I don't consider my attractions to be a "defining" part of who I am. They're significant and influence (probably) every aspect of my personality, but the sexual aspects themselves are purely private. They don't dictate my interests or behaviors and I consider them completely irrelevant in 99.9% of my daily interactions. So, in some ways, I just don't think coming out has much importance for me.

Some people have a much different experience than that, however, and would like to be open about sexuality and homosexual issues in their discussions and interactions with other people. I've felt this way myself, but when the issue is a discussion of my own sexuality (and not sexuality in general), I sometimes have to stop and really examine whether it's even appropriate to discuss my personal sexuality with whoever it is I'm chatting with. Sure, they're a friend who cares about me and loves me, but it's still a sacred and private topic. I'm not shy at all about talking about homosexuality or having explicitly sexual conversations in an impersonal, objective sense, but I tend to shut up (despite my occasional desire to "share" myself with friends) if I'm rational about it.

Perhaps the main reason I can think of for caution in coming out is that not being out has kept me away from temptation on many occasions. I have been to SO many professional meetings where I'm in a hotel far away from home and there is an organized group of GLBT medical students and physicians who, well, would likely provide plenty of opportunities to get into some hot trouble. I've been to their meetings to be supportive, but when I'm there I don't label myself as gay. I label myself as married with children and heterosexually active (or I would, if someone really pressed me for a label!). I read Abelard's description of a temptation with a coworker who was gay (and offered a sexual encounter!), and I suspect such a situation would have been exponentially worse if Abelard had been out to that coworker. I remember Max's description of a coworker who became obnoxiously determined to get it on after he learned that Max was gay. I've chatted with other bloggers who have gotten into trouble by "outing" themselves to others as well (once, for example, resulting in excommunication). Basically, I have plenty of temptation in my life without adding more. I'm pretty sure that I owe my 'gay virginity' to the fact that I haven't been out and have therefore had fewer opportunities to get into trouble.

I do see the benefits of being honest with close friends and loved ones about central issues such as this, and I am still considering whether, how, and when to come out to my parents. I'll do so when I see some real opportunity for benefit, and until then I plan to keep the private aspects of my life private.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Romney, more or enough?

I hadn't even seen the Time coverage of Romney (and Mormonism) when I wrote my Romney post. I've been keeping a little bit of an eye on the issue since then and found this story that I quite liked.

The good news is, I think, that I've noticed more discussion of Romney's views rather than his underwear. Maybe now I can start writing some pro-Giuliani posts. ;-)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Blogging over there

It's been a busy time for me, and I'm a little surprised to see how few posts I've thrown out there this month. But then, part of it is that I've started putting most of my less personal posts on Northern Lights.

Please come visit me over there too. :-)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Romney's 24 hours

I'm not decided on the presidential election (which, I think is okay given the current date). However, I've been irritated repeatedly that any discussion of Romney in the media has to be a discussion of irrelevant crap rather than his policy and leadership. And yes, I'm including the fact that he's a Mormon in the category of "irrelevant crap". The man should be given consideration for how well he can lead our country.

Anyway, in the wake of last night's debate, there's a 24 hour campaign for Mitt's support. I signed up and donated $10. I don't even know if I'll vote for the man, but I'm persuaded his campaign needs support just to get a fair shake. Here's an e-mail I got from a friend. Have a look and consider supporting the guy. If you like the idea, you should do it right now, cuz otherwise it probably won't happen.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Step 5: Confession

It's been a while since I've stepped. I've got 4 down and 8 to go, so I don't know why I'm always so slow. Things won't take care of themselves automatically, I suppose. So, on to step 5.

“I would not dwell upon your crimes, to harrow up your soul, if it were not for your good” (Alma 39:7).
• Some people would claim that we dwell too much on negative things in life by taking steps 4 and 5 and that doing so can only add to our stress. In this verse, we are taught that facing shortcomings can do us good, not just “harrow up” (or distress) our souls. In what ways can steps 4 and 5 relieve you of stress and bring you more peace?

With all the attempted suicides and self-hate that I see among young gay guys, it's easy to get carried away and apply the same soothing rhetoric to myself that I would like to extend to them. But the fact is, I'm not suicidal and have no real problem with self-hate. My problem is excusing myself.

I excuse myself from looking at porn because "I'm addicted," or I excuse myself from really stepping up and carefully studying the scriptures and participating in church. I excuse myself for masturbation. I excuse my selfishness.

Selfishness. That reminds me of the recent discussions I've seen about President Packer's pamphlet, To the One, in which he opines that many of the difficulties associated with being gay are attributable to selfishness. The rhetoric flying off that discussion was thick and deep, and frankly, irrelevant to me. Because, regardless of whether you want to take issue with the generalizability of that, regardless of whether you are prone to outrage that an apostle would say such a thing, I can't deny to myself how true it is in my case. I'm a very selfish person, I always have been, and it's no good trying to deny it.

...President Spencer W. Kimball: “Repentance can never come until one has bared his soul and admitted his actions without excuses or rationalizations. . . . Those persons who choose to meet the issue and transform their lives may find repentance the harder road at first, but they will find it the infinitely more desirable path as they taste of its fruits”

Being selfish is not going to make me happy. I'm fully convinced of that on an academic level. I love the scriptures where we're invited to lose our lives for Christ's sake, and that through so doing we will find ourselves. And, to be fair and honest, I've done a pretty good job of being unselfish in some ways in my life. But there is still a very deep-rooted desire within myself to look at porn, despite what it may do to my wife, despite how it may affect our family and marriage, despite its effects on my spirituality. I know what I want, and the largest effort of my daily life ends up being a puzzle of risk and consequence management, keeping the negative impact of my selfishness at a minimum, but harboring the selfishness through it all at the protected core of my life.

One major obsession of those who struggle with addiction is a great desire to look good to others. How would this desire keep you from improving and bringing “forth more fruit” (or good works)?

I've always been an approval junkie. It's a problem on this blog, certainly, because I tend to want to look consistent and sometimes avoid airing my dirty laundry (despite that doing so is one of the reasons this blog exists). I'm not looking for reassurances of my self-worth with this post, and I don't want to hear criticisms of President Packer. This post is just for me to say what I know is true: I have a fair number of problems in my life that still need to be dealt with. Primary among these problems is my selfishness. It's the center of my issues with porn, imagining a life of gay bliss, wasted time, hypocrisy, and so on. So, there you have my confession, hopefully unsoftened by my desire to look good.

You may fear that someone who really knew all your weaknesses and failings would reject you. But a priesthood leader or a trusted friend who understands the recovery process usually responds with understanding and compassion. How could such a response help you heal?

I suppose this speaks to my last post. My wife allows my confessions and responds with understanding and compassion. She doesn't excuse my faults, and I'm glad for that. But she stands by me regardless of my failings, and she lets me know that she wants me to be happy and she wants me to be the person I can be. I don't bring up my failings to her on a perpetual basis, because that wouldn't be fair to her. Luckily, I do have friends who are supportive and encouraging and who I trust not to give me improper guidance or misinformation when I confide in them. For all the love I receive from people both near and far who care about me, I say thanks.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Better "because of," not "in spite of"

Chatting around the queerosphere, I've been polling a bit to find out what people do that helps their marriages or hurts them. Near as I can tell, there is a pretty solid correlation between being fully honest with one's spouse about sexuality issues and ability to positively deal with said issues.

My wife and I talk about the blogs, gay politics, and family issues on a pretty regular basis. Daily, probably. Our openness is one of the most wholesome and healthy things in our marriage. I can say what I think--cautiously and sensitively, still--and she will respect me for my honestly and candor. We've had our share of misunderstandings, hurt feelings, over-reactions, and the like. But we work at it. We work through it. And we're stronger, I believe, not just for weathering the storm, but because we're willing to face the realities of our lives and deal with them.

My struggle with same-gender attraction has been one of the most formative issues in making our marriage strong. We know our marriage is "high risk," so to speak. We know that we need to be super understanding of one another. We know that we are committed to each other despite the challenges.

Some marriages seem to be defined by "mixed orientation," which is one reason I think the term mixed orientation marriage is annoying. In the final analysis, an MOM is just like any other marriage--one in which a commitment is made to be sexual and domestic partners despite the challenges life throws at you. The challenges will be colored by external attractions in both cases, sexual intimacy will face challenges in both cases, etc. To quote Samantha:

I can name six marriages (not MOM) in less than thirty seconds that deal with problems with attraction, sexual interaction, impotence, low-libido, and other intimacy detractions. They have to work to be physically intimate, just as I may have to. They don't always feel fulfilled emotionally by their spouses. Sometimes I think we, in MOM's feel we have a special corner on the market when it comes to intimacy issues. We're whiners.

I don't know what to tell people whose spouses aren't ready to deal with the realities of having unwanted sexual attractions. You can't force someone to bump up a few levels of maturity and empathy. But, if there's a solution to be had, I'd say it's worth trying to find. Counseling, certainly, ought to be an option. And for those for whom it's not a likely option, I hope some solution is there for you, and I really do hope that you will find it and have a better marriage because of dealing with challenges, not in spite of them.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Commenting makes me gay

One of the suggested reasons reparative therapists offer for homosexual attractions is a long-established disconnect from masculine acceptance. That's why they have guys running around learning how to play sports and feel good about it. It's a theory that has often been criticized (sarcastically), but one that makes a little sense in my mind.

I hated church ball as a kid. I would rather go to the dentist than throw a basketball (or any ball, for that matter) with an audience. And, I suppose the surprising thing about this is that I'm not too bad of a ball player. I'm not great... my skill development stopped in about the third grade when I quit wanting to play sports pretty much at all... but I do quite well in things like racquetball.

Anyway, as a kid I was invited (half-heartedly) to play with the teachers' quorum team. When I gave it a shot, I was horrible, and the other kids being of the appropriate maturity level for a set of average 14-year-old boys weren't particularly supportive. I didn't go back and they didn't pursue me; or if they did it was obviously half-hearted. "Hey, -L-, if you want to play, we'll certainly sacrifice our chances of winning and cheer you on in a condescending show of supporting our ridiculous teammate." Yes, there's some pride operating there, but I should be given the same concessions of 14-year-old maturity that I give my teammates, right?

So, here I am twice the age and still suffering from caring what other people think. The authors of the blogs here on my sidebar are generally nice to me, even when I'm a ridiculous fool. I appreciate this and it fosters a community spirit that allows openness and honesty without fear of being hurt for it. It also fosters quick and blameless changes of opinion rather than a, "you said something false in writing and in public and now your humiliation will be celebrated" view.

But, when I go out into the bloggernacle proper, I think I freeze up a little bit. I let jeering and obnoxious people keep me from speaking up. I defend myself and my views with a fervor that I later easily admit to myself is ridiculous and counter-productive. In short, I get the same types of insecure feelings I got when I attempted to throw a baseball as a teenager.

I know I've been on quite a kick of blogging about blogging for the last several weeks. But, what can I say? It's been on my mind, and writing this stuff makes me get over it, it seems.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Hate crimes

I've been meaning to read up more on the hate-crimes legislation changes moving through Congress. I still haven't had a chance to really do the topic justice, but wanted to point out this really cool blog I found and his take on the issue.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Locker rooms, showers, saunas, and such

Today after I worked out at my gym, I was chatting with one of my coworkers. He's not a bad looking guy and after we finished chatting he headed to the locker room. It's not the first time I've been given a natural opportunity to follow a good looking guy into a locker room, but lately I've avoided taking that opportunity. I hang back and stretch out instead. Or do just a couple more sets. And I'm proud of myself for it.

Sometimes this isn't a hard thing to do, but once last week it took quite a bit of willpower. The guy that time in particular was someone I'm really attracted to, and I've seen him there many times. We both finished working out at the same time and I thought I might as well go to the locker room. But I realized that I felt an urgency to do it that wasn't tied to me wanting to get clean. I did another couple sets.

This is on my mind mainly because I've seen so many stories about saunas and showers over my time blogging. Gentlefriend's was the most recent, but certainly isn't unique. I've heard repeated stories (both published and private) of guys in saunas masturbating while they watch each other. I initially thought this must just be seedy gyms with a rampantly gay population, but apparently it's not. I even read an article about a lawsuit by some janitors who were sick of seeing gay sex all the time at a popular New York health club chain.

It's enough to make me rethink the health benefits of working out. :-) Here I am a doctor, spending half my waking hours bickering with patients about how they need to exercise more and take care of their bodies, and yet I'm inclined to think it would be better for me to die young and fat than to put myself into a tempting situation like that.

I may not be strong enough to resist if the right temptation presents itself, so I've got to be vigilant in making sure that I don't let my subconscious cruise my horny self into a situation where I'm bound to be in loads of trouble. Luckily, my gaydar is not so good. Even more lucky, med school and residency have aged me a bit. Thank goodness for being old and ugly.

So. I guess I'll wait until the locker room is clear before getting my things. And saunas are over-rated anyway. :-)

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Bedtime story

I just finished watching The Mormons on PBS and it wasn't a bad flick. As I sit here with droopy eyes ready to doze off for the evening, I'm just alarmed at how blessed my life is. I've been meaning to write more "stories" on my blog, so maybe I can pop out a quick one before I slip into my sleepy coma.

I remember one of the interviewees in the documentary saying that it didn't matter all the good that came from the church if it were a fraud. None of the goodness mattered if the historicity demonstrated that it was all based on a fabrication. I don't remember the exact quote, so I hope I'm not giving a really bad paraphrase, but I just can't agree with the guy.

I've never been one to get wrapped up in the historical debates of controversial church issues. Those sorts of discussions just don't float my boat. Regarding the "facts" of polygamy and blacks and ERA and Mountain Meadows massacre... I still have a lot to learn. I do think that in the end the church is true not just in overall effect, but in the details.

When I was a kid, a friend of mine quipped that even if the church isn't true it's still a helluva way to live. I thought he was an idiot. I was a very idealistic little boy and my primary interest was in the truth. The absolute truth.

However; when I watch the cameras flip back and forth between Elder Jensen and various critics of the church, there's almost a demonstrable difference in light in their faces. It's not that the critics weren't nice folks, smart folks, good folks... but the church has had a refining effect on Elder Oaks and President Hinckley and Elder Jensen that seemed amazingly stark to me. Isn't that something to the credit of the church despite whatever academic squabbling a person wants to undertake?

At the end of the day I feel very happy knowing that a large portion (if not all) of the happiness I have in my life extends from my family and the happiness in my family extends from trying to live the gospel of Jesus Christ, and that gospel has come through this church.

Ok, kids. There you go. That is what you might call a "flight of ideas" post from your schizophrenic friend, -L-. And now, with no regard to whether anything I just wrote made any sense whatsoever, I publish and sleep.