Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Fear of our Bodies

I posted the following in a private group of LGBT Latter-day Saints (or more specifically, Covenant Keeping Queers 😜), and it prompted me share and expound...

"It may be because I've been around for a while, but I just want to say...sometimes we can be afraid of our attractions, tell ourselves "no" whenever we feel attracted to someone, or even avoid contact with people who are attractive or who we're worried about developing deeper feelings for. These are perpetuated by the things we tell ourselves and, sadly, lay advice given by church leaders who probably didn't know any better.

"I acknowledge that each situation is different and that we need to use our own wisdom and guidance of the Holy Ghost, but I think SATAN (that b*tch) is the one who wants us to fear our feelings and stay away from people we find attractive. This probably applies to more than just our little queer community. As I mentioned in one thread, 'friendship and connection is more important than never having an erection.'"

We're taught the law of chastity, and we're taught about how sexual relations are supposed to be used. That's all good.  Yet I wonder, depending on how it's taught, if it strikes fear surrounding sexual feelings. I've been on my journey for a while. I acknowledged my SSA over 10 years ago. I certainly had to go through a lot of growth and reconciliation. Now, as new people come in contact with our community, I've noticed one thing in common among many of them. There is a fear of being attracted to a person of the same sex. It's very easy to fall into this trap, as we are taught that sexual relations among the same sex are grievous sins (however, gay marriage aside, I believe they should be regarded the same way as ANY sexual relations outside of marriage between a man and a woman. Whether the Church currently sees it this way could be up for debate).

I've realized that this fear (and perhaps just fear itself) is part of what would lead me to pornography and other unhealthy habits. It can lead to a lack of connection with people. It might seem logical to counsel gay men to stay away from men they find attractive, or perhaps keep them from associating with other gay men at all. When really, that's what we need! We don't need sex. We need love and connection.

Now, I know I'm weird, but I'm not a lone. I do not equate platonic same-sex affection with the same between men and women. If I were dating a girl or married, I wouldn't want to engage in non-sexual prolonged affection with a woman who was not my girlfriend or wife. But no matter what happens in the marriage arena, I will always need connection and a healthy amount of affection with men. In fact, I wonder if ALL men are in need of this kind of affection with each other. Sexual orientation doesn't even need to be a factor, but I still like to think that my orientation as some sort of purpose.

I recently had an experience with fear. This didn't have much to do with love and connection, but it illustrates how FEAR could have kept me from a potentially healing experience. A few years ago. Some friends and I were in Las Vegas and part of the plan was to go to a Korean Spa (where people are NAKED!...separated by gender, of course). I didn't go. I didn't think it was a good idea for a bunch of gay Mormon men to go to a naked spa. Yet I acknowledge that even at that time, it was motivated by fear and self-consciousness.

It seems logical to strongly discourage men who are attracted to other men to visit such a facility. I think it would still be unheard of in many circles, especially religious ones.

A few days ago, I received an invitation to go to a different Korean spa with a different friend. Of course I was hesitant, but as I analyzed my thoughts, I realized what was going on. It was all fear. I didn't have any spiritual feelings telling me not to go. I was afraid of my body "reacting." I was afraid to be in the buff around someone I knew. However, I've been sharing dressing rooms with men for a long time. I also survived the college gym locker room scene, and it was just fine. In fact, it actually was a healthy experience.

Long story short, I let the fear subside and I went rather peacefully. I was comfortable within 15 seconds of stripping down. For reasons that would make an already-awkward post even more awkward, it was another healthy experience (I'm willing to share, just ask)...nothing sexually related at all. I felt confident and mature. Some might see this as the equivalent as a straight man in the women's side. I simply disagree.

Looking back, it is so clear to me how Satan disguised fear as a moral issue, and tried to use it to bar me from this edifying experience. I don't think everyone has to feel comfortable going to a Korean Spa. It was just my time. However, I think this principle of fear vs love is a principle that applies to EVERYONE, no matter what the situation is. Fear keeps us from progressing.

I will tie this back to my original topic. The fear of falling in love with someone of the same sex could potentially bar us from what would otherwise be healthy and fulfilling relationships. I've been "too far" emotionally before. I've been in codepency before. I continue to mistakes in my own life. Yet healthy connection with others is still something to work toward and cultivate. It's what we're built for. Some of us guys (and girls) just have a greater need of it with other guys (girls).

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Allies in Christ

Let me start by acknowledging that yes, I know I am different.  Because of my experiences, my choices and how I choose to believe and think, I have feelings that are different from most of the LGBT community.  Nevertheless, that's pretty much why I share.

The "gay/straight alliance," or the term "LGBT ally,"  has always bothered me in a way.  I was rather oblivious to all of it before I knew more about myself, but as time has gone on, the concept still bothers me.  Are we at war?  Who are we fighting against?  I know many people will tell me the answers to these questions...and they will all be different.

Perhaps it's similar to the words "gay" or "bisexual."  Some people have a specific lifestyle or behavior in mind when it comes to those terms (but hopefully that's changing).  Similarly, the term "LGBT Ally" draws up some specific nuances for me:  "We're not like those other Mormons."  "The Church doesn't accept you, but I will." "Look at how loving I am!  I have a rainbow on my timeline!"  "I'm all for gay marriage.  I support equality" (which translates to me as you don't think I was equal before, or that you don't think the Church views me as an equal, or that anyone who supports the "traditional" definition of marriage favors inequality).

By many connotations of ally-ship, I'd most likely be characterized as a gay rebel.

Now, I have good friends who consider themselves allies, and that's OK.  Naturally, allies come in many forms.  Yet I prefer to see them genuine, fellow disciples of Christ.  Many self-proclaimed allies do possess many Christlike attributes that I think all members should have.  Many allies feel that they are doing what Jesus would do.  Yet from my perspective, sometimes that is coupled with forces that I feel are working against the Church or seeking to change core doctrines.

I need allies who will continue to develop their faith in Christ, learn the gospel and learn how to more accurately defend it (blanket statements about LGBT-everything is no longer defending the gospel).  I need allies who will walk beside me and value me first and foremost as a son of God, a fellow disciple, but also with the understanding that my same-sex attraction carries with it some unique needs, talents, abilities and BLESSINGS! I need allies who won't apologize for the Church and it's stance on marriage and sexual morality.  It's something of which I've gained a deep, yet malleable understanding, meaning it's something that can still be added upon as I gain further light and knowledge.  I still sometimes can't get over how awkward or ironic it is for a gay person to come to such a conclusion.  And no, I'm not redefining things in my head...I'm talking about man-woman marriages and sexual relations within those bounds.

Even with that in mind, I need allies who will be there for me even if I were to find a partner (the marrying part seems a little far out, but even so...).  I need allies who would treat my partner and any children (also far out...considering my testimony of the family) just like any other family.  That does not in the least mean changing sincerely held beliefs in order to do this.  I do not believe supporting individuals is the same thing as "supporting same-sex marriage" on a large scale.  I wouldn't expect people to leave the Church, work against it or, in effect, "counsel God" on my behalf.

I've learned from a few sets of parents in my realm of the gay Mormon community.  They love the gospel.  They live the gospel.  They love the leaders of the Church.  I suspect they even maintain a testimony of specific doctrines that have become controversial in our day.  Yet they unconditionally love their gay children and partners, if any, even if they do take a path outside of the gospel.  I reckon that their own love for the Savior and His commandments is what enables them to love their children in such a way.

Anyway, everyone's in a different place in their journey, no matter their sexual orientation.  These are just some of my thoughts and perspectives of the concept of "alliance" in LGBT land.  I am truly grateful for the people that are in my life.  I've had very few negative experiences with other members of the Church.  Perhaps I know who to avoid or when to speak up about the topic, but overall it's been amazing.  I feel more at home in the Church than in the LGBT community.  Granted, I haven't traveled far in the latter, but if I'm at home in the gospel, I don't think I'd need to.