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.

26 comments:

Gimple said...

-L-, I would have to absolutely agree with you. I don't see how people can stand to be out to everyone they know. I would never want that! It is nice not to have people judge me as gay and put stereotypes on me immediately. Plus, as you said, there is a greater chance that someone who is looking for action to find you and pressure you into very tempting situations. I do agree that being out to some close friends is good. I have found a lot of solace in telling them.

Brady said...

I agree too, you definitely don't need/want to be out to everyone around you. For me, it's not something I want to flaunt or broadcast, but also something I'm not ashamed about. So I don't introduce myself with, "Hi, I'm Brady and I'm gay." But if someone asks me why I don't date much I wouldn't be as afraid to tell them. Even then, I don't like to talk about sexuality issues with people I don't know very well. Just as I wouldn't talk about other personal and sensitive topics in a casual way.

I should add, however, that I am out to a lot of people and feel totally comfortable about that. It's nice to have good friends who know about your sexuality and can joke or talk about it occasionally, but otherwise don't care.

As for the tempting situations, I think that could definitely be a problem, but only if you were to be extremely open about being gay. If you selectively tell only people you trust and know well, it tends not to be much of a problem. Those people might know you're gay, but they also know where you stand - and I don't think they'd disrespect that.

playasinmar said...

I think some of us got sick of being actors in a poorly written play we wrote ourselves.

Barney said...

Perhaps the act of sharing something so basic that was hidden/denied for so long is important and cathartic for some people. I agree you should be very careful about whom you share with. Like you say it doesn't inform 99%+ of your interactions. And besides putting yourself into more tempting situations, I think it could lead to more social awkwardness in general (and most of us don't need any more of that than we have already).

iwonder said...

I sort of feel that I've started all this controversy.

Let me explain a few things.

I don't intend to go around with a sign hung around my neck that says "I'm GAY!", but neither do I plan on hiding the truth anymore.

Like Playasinmar said,

I think some of us got sick of being actors in a poorly written play we wrote ourselves.

That's exactly how I feel. I don't feel like I'm me in my life the way it is right now. I don't feel that I'm being honest with my friends or with myself. And I want to change that.

I know of course that being gay doesn't define me, and isn't all I am, but at the same time, neither does my major, or where I'm from, or what languages I speak. Yet all of these things are very important parts of who I am, as is being gay. It is not everything, but it is important in understanding who I am. I have been excluding the gay part of me because of fear and shame, and it is time to put that part of my life behind me, it's time to change all that. In order for me to really move on with my life, I have to leave that part of me behind that has been keeping me back all these years, and that is my own insecurities with my sexuality and my fear. If I can finally rid myself of the fear and finally be accepting of who I am, then I can finally start to progress. You may thing that I don't need to be out in order to reach that point, and you may be right. But for me I feel this is what I have to do.

Secondly, I am really not worried about being put in a compromising situation. Mainly because I don't think that anyone would be attracted to me, and because I won't do anything I don't want to do.

Thirdly, I don't have to worry about my commitment to anyone else. I don't have a girlfriend or wife, and don't plan to in the foreseeable future. I have to do this for me.

Finally, I have already come out to my family and close friends, and that has somewhat alleviated the feelings of duplicity, but I feel I need to take this final step. I realise that there is no going back, and I am still processing how I feel about that, but I am confidant it will be ok.

Wow, long comment. I should probably post this on my blog.

I appreciate all of your thoughts on this matter.

-L- said...

iwonder, never apologize for starting a controversy--it makes life so much more fun! :-)

I hope you didn't take this post as antagonistic to you, because it wasn't meant that way at all. Your post wasn't the only one that got me thinking about these things either (but was the main one). I'm just chiming in, as you suggested everyone go ahead and do.

Your situation and mine have several key differences, so many of the things I've written may not apply. But, overall I'm pretty happy with where we are and the results that have come from it; hence, the warning for caution.

Something I've wondered as I read SG, Abelard, and Beck's thoughts on their respective marriages over at Northern Lights is how being "out" to a spouse changes perceived expectations. In my mind, it shouldn't change things, but I wonder if it does and how that pans out. I can't say, of course, I'm just thinking out loud.

Mr. Fob said...

I saw an ad on the side of the bus yesterday that thoroughly refutes all of your arguments:

"Out is in."

iwonder said...

-L-,
Don't worry. I am not offended in the least. I didn't find you antagonistic at all. And I agree, having something interesting to discuss is fun.

In fact, I am grateful to hear what other people think. It gives me the ability to make an even more informed decision. I just wanted to clarify my thought processes so as not to be misunderstood.

Anyway, thanks for all of your thoughts and comments. I look forward to reading more.

Max Power said...

I just want to say that I would be very interested to see what straight girls have to say on this subject. Anyone know any?

salad said...

apparently being a straight girl comes in handy on occasion ;) I'll chime in for a minute: Mulan and I were talking last night and I decided that I often prefer my gay friends to many of my straight friends. I like the fact that my friends are ok with being "out" with me and I think it has strengthened our relationships because I'm able to be more supportive.

I can understand -L-'s position in not telling people, but I found that it's been so much easier for me to have a few people that know about what's going on in my life. When Drex told Mulan it was like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders because I finally had someone else to talk to about the situation. Telling our parents was also a huge step. Drex is able to share more of himself with his parents and I'm able to be more open and honest with my parents.

There are definite pros and cons to both situations. I don't know if I gave the perspective you were hoping for Max, but I gave it a shot :)

Jacob Mathews said...

I think I understand your POW, but I also believe it is a bit outdated. I belong to a new young generation of Gay Mormons. We do not want to be straight acting or marry in order to fit in. If some of us do not have the courage to be out, other Saints will keep thinking that SSA is some of STD, and that we are sinners by nature. It is possible to be both gay, celibate and a good disciple of Christ. We can go forward like all who are faithful. And it is time that our brothers and sisters see that gays are not freaks.

-L- said...

Jacob, good to see your blog. :-)

And, by the way, I'm 30-ish years old. How many generations separate us? Bully for you and stamping out prejudice, but it may just be that we disagree, not that I'm from your grandpa's generation of repressed homos.

Jacob Mathews said...

Oh Sorry I thought you were a bit older. The reason for that might be that your opinions is very similiar to many in the generation before us. About not talking about "it". I am ready to take some flak for beeing brutally honest. My gayness is not just about sex and sexuality. It is about a longing for love. It is about fairness, decency and human rights and equality. I will not be a second class Saint or citizen just because I am gay. There are many different ways to live and I am not judgmental about any gay brother who lives his life differently from me. And I do have prejudices about gay men who marry. But I respect their choices and wish them good luck and much happiness.

Max Power said...

Jacob,

Not to burst your bubble, but since you are 25, you're actually older than most of the MoHo's around these parts. :D

I would disagree that the "rising generation" of MoHos all don't want to be straight acting, married guys. I think that the majority are interested in at least giving marriage a shot.

While I agree that it is possible to be a faithful, celibate gay Mormon (I do have the longest tenure in that regard of just about anyone else on here), it's not the most enjoyable of paths the older you get. Companionship in this life is a very, very important thing, and without marriage, you just aren't going to get it at the level you need.

So, that doesn't really have anything to do with the subject of coming out to everyone, but I did want to address the comment of people choosing never to marry.

-L- said...

Well, my impression is that there are different views on most subjects, and they're not all had according to demographic lines. I admire the idealistic approach, regardless.

However, as for the issue of coming out, I think you may have me pegged wrong. I'm not afraid of talking about "it" if the "it" you are referring to is being gay, masturbating, porn, explicit sex, or pretty much anything else. But it's all contextual. I don't think there is any necessary difference between "straight acting" and "gay acting". I'm the same person either way, and that's the point. I don't act, I just am. And that's without anyone knowing I'm gay.

Foxx said...

As a benefit, perhaps THE benefit that I see with coming out is that putting your neck out and sharing a deeper part of yourself with someone you love - when people know you better, deeper, they feel closer to you, and understand you more, and it tends to make them want to let you in to their lives as well. Coming out about anything can make your relationships more intimate (even if it's only that you like peanut butter pickle sandwiches).

Jacob Mathews said...

Oh yes Max I do consider buying some antiwrinkle cream and get some botox treatments soon, since I have reached the ripe old age of 25 :-))

I have some very good deep friendships with some of the men in my ward. They know about "it" and we spend a lot of quality time together. They hug me and put their arm around me. I consider that all the companionship I need. I am not sure they would have been so loving and caring and given me as many hugs if they did not know about "it". Beeing open have been a blessing. Yes some think I will come on to them (AS IF...), but so far I have dissapointed them :-)

By "It" I mean beeing open about my feelings and the sacrifices I have to make, as a clibate gay LDS.

I prefer not to talk about explicit sex...I don´t have any experience, so there is nothing to talk about. I consider sex private, and prefer not to talk and hear about it. Some
of my friends at the University talk far too much about nailing girls.

Switch said...

Gimple says: "I don't see how people can stand to be out to everyone they know. I would never want that! It is nice not to have people judge me as gay and put stereotypes on me immediately."


Hmm.. I'm out to everyone I know.

It's quite a relief to never have to worry about my "little secret" getting out. I don't ever make a big deal out of it, but if someone asks if I'm seeing someone or whatever, I'll tell them the truth.

Sure, they might wig out for a second. All you have to do though, is keep on acting the same way you always have. Swiftly enough, they'll realize the generalizations they've learned from television aren't always true, and that you're the same person you've always been.

I'm lucky in that regard. It's easier here than in Utah - I live in a progressive town and work for a progressive company. My family is very diverse in their religious beliefs, and I have a younger brother who's gay as well. I never had to deal with a large-scale family rejection, and I think that helped me skip over some of the darker aspects of gay culture.

I wish, wish, wish that more gay people with respectable behavior and a stable value set would come out. Nothing kills an inaccurate stereotype faster, and it could provide healthy examples for the younger gay folk - LDS or not.

Unfortunately, these types rarely make the news, so their influence is only felt by those close to them.

-L-, in your case, I'd understand not wanting to start telling people. I think you get enough flak about being gay and straight-married from us more "leftish" folk here in BlogWorld. ;)

I'd have meaner words to say if you weren't open and honest with your wife about this. I think that's what's most important from the little bit I know of your situation.

That all said, I think one of the biggest plagues for gay people arises from the fact that we learn how to keep deep, dark secrets at an early age. I really do think it's time to eliminate that. We're among the first generations of gay men and women who have a shot at living an honest and healthy life.

Now, if we could just clean up those stupid parades...

*Switch steps down from the soap box.*

-L- said...

There are actually quite a few issues here that I want to respond to. First, I totally agree with Foxx's comment about how sharing things fosters closeness. I think he put it really well and although I'm appalled that anyone might like pickle and peanut butter sandwiches, I'll still respect them after they tell me (but please, Foxx, say it ain't so!). That said, I don't necessarily think that it's appropriate to foster an intimacy level like that with whoever one meets. It depends on the subject, the person, and the situation (one might say it's "contextual").

I also like Switch's comment. Feeling confident in discussing such things is an admirable thing... sort of. On the other hand, I don't think anyone has any right to ask you about your dating and sexuality. The information one provides should be voluntary, and being evasive when asked an inappropriate question is not being dishonest. And the person asking the question may perceive it to be completely innocuous, but there's nothing wrong with not providing the information that would fill in all the gaps in their perception of the issue. Regardless, I've never even had to be evasive about it. Anyone who has asked me whether I'm gay, I've told. But they aren't in my life anymore (except my wife).

So, basically, I oppose any posturing of moral superiority for those who wear their sexuality on their lapel, so to speak. It's fine, for those who want to. But it's fine not to for those who don't, too, and I strongly object to stereotyping age or assigning "courage" and morally loaded labels to one view or the other.

iwonder said...

and although I'm appalled that anyone might like pickle and peanut butter sandwiches, I'll still respect them after they tell me (but please, Foxx, say it ain't so!).

What the CRAP?!?!!!?!?

I that my mum and I were the only people in the whole of creation who absolutely adore sandwiches oozing crunchy peanut butter and salty, crispy dill pickles.

Foxx, I LOVE you!

And -L-,
Don't you dare knock it till you've tried it. Trust me, it's heavenly!

Switch said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
-L- said...

Actually, Switch, that comment was intended to be directed at nobody in particular, just a general assessment of what has been bothering me in the back of my mind.

And, I should remind you that I was single the whole time I was at BYU, so it's not like I've always had the "I'm married" card to play.

I don't make a fuss, and it's just never been a big deal.

That's just like me. So, there you have it. The people who know I'm gay are out of my life now because I've moved on with my professional training, not because I've filtered them out. I wish they were still in my life--I love them and miss them. My point with this post is to point out that there are cons to sharing this information too, something that seems to often be filtered out.

Mr. Fob said...

So, basically, I oppose any posturing of moral superiority for those who wear their sexuality on their lapel, so to speak. It's fine, for those who want to. But it's fine not to for those who don't, too, and I strongly object to stereotyping age or assigning "courage" and morally loaded labels to one view or the other

I would say this too, if I were uncourageous, old, and morally inferior. Don't hate on us for flaunting our youth and courage, old man. :)

Abelard Enigma said...

Being one of your grandpa's generation of repressed homos, I just thought I would jump in and offer up my $0.02 on this topic. If nothing else, it might help -L- set a record of the number of comments on a blog post :)

I like playasinmar's comment:

I think some of us got sick of being actors in a poorly written play we wrote ourselves.

But, I also agree with -L-'s comment:

I don't think there is any necessary difference between "straight acting" and "gay acting". I'm the same person either way, and that's the point. I don't act, I just am.

I don't think I try to act straight. I used to. For instance, when people started talking sports around me, I would pretend to be interested and nod my head at appropriate moments. Now I just look at them with a blank stare, and when I get a chance to speak, I ask them "Is that the game with the big round ball? Or the funny shaped ball?"

But, I also think Salad made a good point about being able to be more open and honest with those to whom you are close. And I agree with Foxx that sharing such an intimate detail of your life with those to whom you are close can help foster a deeper relationship. My wife has shared how isolated she feels now because she has no one else, other than me, to talk to. She said "You have your blogging friends, I have no one". Although, she is even more adamant about not telling anyone than I am (I'm, at least, open to the idea - even if it terrifies me)

I also agree with Jacob that there is a new generation of gay Mormons - one that is starting out more open and accepting of their situation (for lack of a better term). Only time will tell how well this works out for them in the long run; but, I like to believe that accepting who you are early in life is a good thing.

But... (there is always a 'but'), the wild card in this is the 'other people' and how they will react. For instance, I know of one person (a bit older than me) who, when he told his adult children he was gay, he was informed that dear old dad would no longer be allowed to be alone with the grandchildren (apparently, we are also pedophiles).

Something else I thought about. I work a lot with the youth, which includes scouting. If me being gay were common knowledge in my ward, how would that impact my scouting position? For example, what if one of the parents called the local BSA council office and said they weren't comfortable with their kids being in a scout troop that has a gay leader (even one who is in a monogamous relationship with a wife). How does the supreme court decision come into play here? When they ruled in favor of the Boy Scouts, I'm not aware that there was any distinction made between attraction and behavior. The BSA would be well within their legal rights to inform the church that I was not to be allowed to hold a scouting position (I'm not saying they would, but they could. And, they may perceive doing so to be the most politically correct thing to do so as to avoid unwanted publicity).

Or, perhaps I'm just being melodramatic and making mountains out of molehills. Maybe I should go out and buy my rainbow tie to wear to church :)

And, btw, my daughter used to eat Peanut Butter and Ketchup sandwiches. (or is that Peanut Butter and Catsup sandwiches?)

-L- said...

PB and... ketchup. Nice. This thread is making me nauseated. :-)

The scouting issue is an interesting one. Maybe it even deserves a whole new post in which to discuss it, what with me having been lazy for the last several days.

I believe I was released as the priest quorum adviser for the suspicion that I was gay. The situation itself is one I've described before and won't go into, but I have no way to be certain that's why I was released, but being paranoid that's the way I took it.

Maybe I'll just have to break down and write a new post. :-)

Anonymous said...

below belongs to the comments for "temptation" topic...couldn't post it there so here it is..


Take walks with your beautiful wife instead L. Me and Dr. H walk 2 miles a day, and its wonderful to hold hands, talk about the kids,patients, work whatever.

Like Joseph of old, flee, run, quit the gym etc.. but don't give in. The problem is you are exposing yourself to temptation over and over again. Join another gym, walk with your wife, etc. My brother in Laws brother has aids, and he says that a lot of his partners were in NYC healthclubs when they met!! No kidding! Soooooo you may be indangering your spiritual AND physical health...I am proud of you for staying morally clean thus far..but just like I can't be alone with hot, older doctors of the opposite sex 'cause that's MY temptation, you shouldn't be hanging out were men of your type or who your attracted to are half to full naked in the same general area as you.

Love, Kittywaymo/sheila hunter