Saturday, October 15, 2016

Acceptance and Resistance

OK, I certainly don't want "gay" or "same-sex attracted" to become my identity, but I think this concept (acceptance vs. resistance) is pretty important.  It can be applied in a variety of situations and I wonder if it's something in Mormon culture that needs a different perspective.  I also want to continue to share my journey when applicable, especially since my path is officially "unconventional" in the gay community...in and out of the Church (some of my friends have cleverly described it as people trying to tell us "how to gay.")

In the LDS faith in general, we are taught to resist a lot of things, especially when it comes to sexuality.  I remember hearing many talks on pornography and sexual relations.  Chastity is important.  Protection from the chains of pornography are important.  And yet, when we say "don't think about           ," we're probably going to think about           .

Specifically in my situation, I go through bouts of resistance, telling myself I shouldn't feel a certain way or that there's something wrong or bad about my sexual orientation.  In such resources as the current version of the Mormons and Gays website and the First Presidency Pamphlet, God Loveth His Children, there is this idea of resisting same-sex attraction.  I understood the implication of abstaining from sexual relations, but the wording has always been a little bit uncomfortable for me.  It makes it sound like living with same-sex attraction has to be this life-long white-knuckle ride.  This concept could be taken and interpreted in a variety of ways from people on all different sides.  Also, it shows that many people still believe same-sex attraction is all about desires for sex and acting out on them (and yet, how many times to we hear that we need to resist opposite sex attraction...plenty of people "struggle" with their heterosexuality, let me tell you!!!).  It's so much more, and as usual, I could write paragraphs...

I often hear and see (on Facebook) well-meaning people say things like, "You're a son of God." "This doesn't define you." "Don't let it become your identity." "Don't label yourself." "You're more than your sexuality."  Of course these things are true, especially in reference to my divine identity. Yet when I was in the thick of things, they just didn't help.  I found them invalidating, and I felt cast aside.  I felt like people were trying to avoid discussion.  I thought maybe my feelings didn't matter or that they weren't important.  I didn't always know the intentions were, but for whatever reason, they led me to further resist my gayness.

Of course my sexuality doesn't define me, but an important point to make is that it doesn't define me any more or less than heterosexual feelings define someone else.  Of course its not my identity.  My identity is Alex Lindstrom.  I am a son of God, and many other things, but that doesn't make my sexuality irrelevant, at least not any more or less than anyone else.  There is this concept of "sexual identity."  Whether someone chooses to focus on their sexual identity or not is irrelevant for my purposes.  "Sexual identity" doesn't usually need to be discussed because most people are heterosexual (and I acknowledge and understand that it more easily leads to God's pattern of procreation and family life).  That's why, I believe, it seems out of the ordinary for someone to "identify" as homosexual, bisexual or queer.

Anyway, back to the concept of eternal identity.  I came to see more of my eternal identity and potential when I accepted my gayness, not when I resisted it.  Resistance gave my feelings more negative energy and attention.  Acceptance led me to see what it seemed like others wanted me to see; however, I doubt most people had acceptance on the brain when they told me those things.  It was acceptance that led me to see myself more as a son of God.  It was acceptance that led me to not dwell on these feelings.  It was acceptance that allowed me to move forward and start healing.  It's much easier and healthier for me to accept that there are plenty of gorgeous men in the world, rather than resisting it and telling myself I shouldn't feel or think that way.  It just is what it is.  God has made some beautiful people.

It was acceptance that helped me to see that I'm actually somewhat fluid in my sexuality, maybe somewhat bisexual.  In fact, it was acceptance that led me to realize that I didn't have to be confined to a specific "gay" or "straight" identity or set of expectations.  However, it was a necessary step in my journey of acceptance to say "I'm gay."  Acknowledging my feelings and being authentic with myself always brings me back to center.  "Gay" doesn't always resonate with me like it used to, yet I'll continue to use it when it feels right, especially when it comes to humor!

Why is this important?  I feel like it applies on a larger scale when it comes to LGBT youth and young adults.  This is just my observation, but sometimes I wonder if people leave the Church and/or pursue relationships outside the bounds the Lord has set because they can't find a way to accept themselves otherwise.  Of course, some may need to leave for a time as part of their journey towards acceptance, but perhaps this could be alleviated a little bit.  We talk about accepting each other, and that's important, but it's also important to accept ourselves.  What would happen if we encouraged more self-acceptance, especially for those who do experience same-sex attraction or gender identity issues?

In the past year or so, when more attention was given to transgender issues, I was disheartened by a comment that read, "The worst thing you can do is tell them to accept themselves!"  REALLY?  I have no idea what this lady's situation was or where she was coming from, but is this an attitude that is still prevalent?  Perhaps we're afraid to encourage acceptance because it sounds like embracing behavior that is not in harmony with the gospel.  That may be true in some circumstances, but it could be miraculously opposite for others.  Either way, acceptance would be healthier than "white-knuckling" discipleship.

In conclusion, acceptance of my feelings brought more healing than resisting them.  I don't want to characterize same-sex attraction solely as a trial (because it's been a huge blessing too), but I feel like this concept applies to other tendencies as well.  I experience anger, jealousy and sadness.  All too often I get the impression from our culture that these things are "bad."  Therefore, I resist those feelings.  I'm still learning how to do this, but acceptance is where it's at.  I can accept them, feel them and then give them to the Lord and allow Him to do what He needs to. 

In fact, that is similar to my feelings for guys.  I can turn them over to the Lord.  He doesn't take them away, but He shows me how they can be acted upon in ways that are good.  I rejoice in the fact that no matter how I choose to describe my feelings, the genuine love and admiration I have for men are gifts from God.