Tuesday, May 8, 2007

fighting inertia

I have never had a great love of sports...frankly, some sports I could just never get, and others I enjoyed but never felt I was competitive. As a missionary, I dreaded PE in the MTC with the inevitable basketball game, a sport that had never been of much importance where I was from and so about which I knew nothing but which my district knew everything about and which they played with total aggressive abandon.

Not much has changed over the years. Except that, after spending about 15 years at a steady weight of about 125 to 130 pounds (yes, I was thin), I hit my early 30s and started to gain weight. First 140, then 145, then 150, and eventually above 160, which meant a really big pot around the middle (and not much new fat anywhere else).

I have had a love/hate relationship with my body. I never liked being short and thin, and I certainly don't like being short and fat. I have always wanted to be goodlooking, to be attractive, and sometimes feel that I am, but other times I sure don't feel pretty. I have told myself that I should do something about my shape, and exercise, but "mind over mattress" never seems to work.

However, I finally did something which will leave with me no more excuse. I went ought and bought a home gym. It is going to be delivered tomorrow night, and I can't wait. It is a big investment, but if this finally gets me off my butt and doing something to change my body, it is worth it after cent. I hope that I can keep at it and not give up when things don't improve right away. At least, the guilt of knowing that the thing is there waiting for me should help to motivate me.

And, who knows, maybe a miracle will happen and I will find out that I gain some decent muscle and look terrific as a result...it sure would be great, a real boost to my self-confidence. And maybe some of those cute guys I wish would notice me will take a look and like what they see...

Wish me luck.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

the showers of April

In the past month, I have attended a gay Anglican eucharist service and a lecture by an Anglican bishop in which he discussed the issue of sexuality within the church (writ large). It took me a long time to work up the courage to go to the eucharist service...it was my first time in any type of Anglican church meeting...but I felt very welcome and comfortable. I like very much the scripture-focussed liturgy and the music. But I didn't have the courage to go this month, and I feel conflicted about that.

Last week, the Community of Christ (the church formerly known as RLDS) had their biannual conference. It interested me to follow their proceedings, to see how liberal they have become, so very much like any mainline Protestant church, while they continue to believe in the idea of an open canon, of continuing revelation to the body of the church. In the course of the week, there was a posting of a session of their conference singing a song familiar to those of a Mormon background, The Spirit of God Like a Fire. I had not heard that song in a long time, but I found myself singing along. The song stirs me; I think it is the idea of God speaking again to humanity, the idea of a pouring out of spiritual gifts, of the building up of God's kingdom on earth, that is what appeals to me in the song, and is what appealed to me in Mormonism. It appeals to my idealism and my romantic side. I suppose that it appeals to the same part of me that is drawn to patriotism and nationalistic feeling.

There is good and bad in all of that. I think this type of idealism is good, if it motivates me to serve others, to try to leave the world better than how I found it, to reach outside of my own problems and my own selfishness to love those around me. However, there is a bad side to it...this idealism is very easily drawn into fanaticism, to self-righteousness, to judgmentalism, to blind obedience, and to living life in a bubble of unreality and denying "things as they really are" in favour of one's fantasy world.

I know that I struggled with those latter problems. I still have to watch myself on all of them. Having left activity in the Mormon church, I have had to come to grips with my own weakness and excesses and to try to change. Yet, at the same time, I feel this longing and nostalgia for my Mormon past, for its certainties, for that feeling of being part of something bigger than me and idealistic, a great cause. But I remind myself that I am not the first to feel this way, nor is this feeling one unique to Mormonism. I suspect that many who have lived through a historic event or sequence of events through which a worldview was overturned--I am thinking of the destruction of Nazi Germany in 1945, the fall of communism, and similar events--has this sort of mix of confusion, a sense of being lost, nostalgia for the past, and yet a sense of relief of having woken up from a long nightmare. I am not saying that the experience of being a Mormon is the same as having lived in Nazi Germany, but I would point out that for the vast majority of Germans, the experience of Nazi Germany was not a bad one at all...if you listen to the stories of these people, it always intrigues me how they so often talk about how wonderful a time it was. They ignored the bad that was going on at the margins of their lives, easily excusing it as being excesses of fanatics, or necessary if harsh retribution to those who were enemies of Germany...the Jews, the gays, the "feebleminded", those who did not fit into the mainstream of German society. I wonder if, in some ways, this is not typical of so many types of human experiences of which Mormonism is but one, perhaps mild, example.

It was hard for me to leave Mormonism, not just for the loss of community, but for the loss of my entire worldview and the end of my hopes and dreams. I think it is a type of grieving process, and it takes a lot of time. As I watch others in the gay Mormon blogosphere going through similar types of experiences, I feel a great deal of empathy for them, having passed through similar heartache. I wish that I were physically able to reach out and comfort these my brothers in their trials. Sometimes, I think we all need to have others help bear us up, lest the burden we are carrying causes us to collapse. But we can all make it, and things do get better.

I appreciate each of you whose blogs I read, for your courage to talk about your experiences, to share your feelings, to lay bare your hearts and souls. I admire your courage...some of you have passed through and some are passing through now some very difficult, painful times. I admire your integrity, your desire to do the right thing, and pray that God our Father will strengthen you to carry your cross. I am grateful for the encouragement so many of you have given me and the strength I have drawn from each of you that has helped me on my journey.

As a closing note, I have made a decision that I am going to attend the Affirmation conference in Washington, D.C., this October. Washington is about a 10 hour drive from where I live in eastern Canada, and it has a lot of connection to my Mormon past...it is where I received the endowment before my mission, where I attended the temple after my mission before the Toronto temple was opened. I know that for many of you in the west it will be difficult to attend given the distance and cost. But I hope that I will get to meet some of you, and that together we can strengthen each other and have fun together. We have a unique heritage as gay Mormons, and we should honour and celebrate it, and in doing so honour the value of each of our lives. Because each of us has value and worth as human beings, a worth that transcends everything else, and that we must never forget nor surrender to those who would marginalize us or label us as unworthy.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

wanting to believe

Lately, for some reason, I have been feeling somewhat nostalgic for my past Mormon beliefs. For the certainty, the doctrinal structure, the quest to master gospel principles, to understand God's purposes for me and for this earth. It was so ingrained in me by years and years of study and thought that in spite of 4 years of being inactive it is still all there, waiting to pop up at a moment's notice. There is or was something about all of it that was very comforting to me; when I was feeling down about other things, I could always retreat into the security of my intellectual/spiritual world of doctrine.

One part of what I miss about the whole Mormon doctrinal structure is I think the sense of purpose and meaning that it gave to life. I was part of something big, something destined to change the world, something noble and outside of my petty personal interests. I confess that there is a part of me that is in love with the idea of the mass movement, of the big idea, of the great cause. I fear that, had I lived in a totalitarian state, I would have been an enthusiastic supporter, caught up in the idealism. On the other hand, I have always had a fear of living in a state like that, and have had recurring dreams about feeling trapped in such a world. So maybe I wouldn't be so evil as to be sucked in by a totalitarian ideal.

In any case, I realize that there a few problems with this idea of throwing oneself into a great cause, etc. For one, too often the great cause, the purity of vision of the ideal, ends up becoming so all-consuming and all-encompassing that it crushes all who stand its way, all who are too weak or too impure to carry it forward to its destiny. I remember Elder Bruce R McConkie's next-to-last General Conference talk called "The Caravan Moves On". I remember thrilling to the idea of being part of this great caravan that has set its back to the world and is facing straight on towards Zion, and is paying no heed to the snarling dogs snapping at our feet, etc. Now, when I think about it, I see another side of that metaphor...the caravan moves on all right, whether you're ready or not, and the mission seems to be more important than any of the potential messengers. It's lovely to keep the message pure, the mission glorious, but if you have to crush everyone or most everyone under the wheels in order to do it, I start to wonder about the real nobility of the supposed ideal/mission/whatever.

The other problem I see with the idea of throwing oneself into a great cause is that it often is a mask for a fear of real life. It's easy to run away from one's problems or from living in the mundane and boring here and now in order to pursue the great, noble cause. One can forget very easily about one's faults and never do anything to change them when one is consumed in the great cause. At the same time, it is very easy for one consumed in the great cause to trample over others in the name of the great cause...I mean, after all, I have a mission from God, and no one is going to stand in my way (I will go and do the thing that the Lord has commanded, even if it means slaying Laban, etc.) Or, I take my ideas about what needs to be done to achieve the great cause and proceed to force those ideas on everyone else, since obviously I am just following the inspiration I've received and I just have to get all those laggards to follow me, at least, or get out of the way. Again, the mission becomes more important than individuals (or maybe it's the ego of the missionary?)

Anyway, as I have said before, I think I am more comfortable now with the humility of doubt than I am with the old certainties.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Looking Back, Facing Forward

Something I have struggled a great deal with in the process of coming out and reassessing my spirituality has been dealing with the many relationships built up over 20 years of being an active Latter-day Saint. After hiding my sexuality for so long, and trying very hard to be the "strong" one, the "orthodox" one, it has been extremely difficult for me to face telling my LDS friends that I am gay and that I no longer have the testimony that I once had. There are a couple of my LDS friends who know, but even there the friendship has drifted since I am no longer an active church participant. LDS life revolves so much around the church and church members--at least, mine certainly did--that it is a bit like being on a merry-go round...once you jump off, the people who are still on it quickly become a whirl of colour and sound that is impossible to focus on or communicate with. And it is hard for those on the merry-go round to communicate with those who are not on it.

The other problem is that I am conflict-averse. Odd, given my choice of career (law), but nevertheless true: I hate conflict with others, especially people for whom I have strong feelings or with whom I have close ties. I remember in my first year of university having a big argument with one of my best friends from high school who was attending the same university as me and lived in the same student residence as I did. He resented my plunging into the LDS young singles life and let me know he thought it was foolish. I ended up avoiding him for the rest of the semester, even skipping certain classes to stay away from him. It was really stupid, created needless pain, and ended up wrecking a good friendship which, while it later was rekindled, was never the same thereafter.

I feel like I have chosen that route again...rather than face my fears and tell my LDS friends that I am gay, I push them away. I hate doing it, but I guess I am too much of a control freak who wants to not be in the vulnerable position of opening myself up to others when I don't know how they will respond. Sure, some will probably be supportive, but I expect others not to be. The people I have told about my struggles with depression have had mixed reactions; those who have themselves experienced depression were the most supportive, along with those who had close family members who had experienced it; others really were pretty clueless, representative of the great misunderstanding and fear of mental illness. I fear worse reactions about revealing that I am gay. After all, while I have been working through this for nearly 3 decades, they will be hearing it for the first time, and may want in some cases to come to the rescue on their white horse, urging me to try harder, to go to reparative therapy, to find a nice girl and settle down, etc. etc. etc. In one case I find particularly hard, I dated a girl that I asked to marry me, with the support of her parents who were, apart from her, my friends. I have a lot of history with this family; how can I now tell them I tried to marry their daughter and sister and drag her into the potential nightmare of later discovering she had married a gay man? I sometimes wonder if she rejected my proposal because she sensed something was amiss in my sexuality. Maybe she noticed my lack of enthusiasm for kissing, something I had never done before her and which she pushed me to do, and which did absolutely nothing for me (no shooting stars or anything like that...sound surprising? haha) Still, her family was on my side to a great extent, so to hear this now would be hard for them and could result in some really bitter recriminations.

I think some of this fear I have and/or need to control others' reactions to me stems perhaps from childhood experiences with my father, who could get very angry and whose anger was out of my control and could not be mollified (you just had to wait for him to cool off). I think I grew to try to avoid other's anger by putting myself down before others had a chance to do so. My reactions now are, I guess, a continuation of that type of behaviour, only in a different guise perhaps.

I really need to change this about myself, because it has been creating a lot of stress for me that I don't need. But I know it will not be an easy pattern of behaviour to break, and I need to be patient with myself. I am grateful for each day I have to try to make little steps forward, with the hope that these little steps will eventually be the mile I need to travel to overcome this. And every worthwhile journey takes time and effort, and begins with a first few hesitant steps, to be followed one hopes in time by more confident strides. As John Kennedy said in his inaugural address: "All this will not be finished in the first 100 days. Nor will it be finished in the first 1,000 days, nor in the life of this Administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin."

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

internalized homophobia

Not long ago, Chris talked (here ) about internalized homophobia. I struggle with this too, although in my case the problem is not so much in my relationship with my parents but with my former LDS friends.

I am a convert, and none of my family followed me into the LDS church, so if anything they were never too thrilled about my church membership. On the other hand, one of my brothers is gay and has been out for nearly 20 years, and my family have had a long time to get over what homophobia it had. So when I came out to my parents, while they were surprised, they were totally supportive (at the time, I thought too supportive, since I really didn't want to be gay). My relationship with my parents has probably gotten better since then, and I feel generally more open with them.

On the other hand, with my LDS friends I have slowly just shut down. The LDS church was my life, particularly my social life, so when I began coming out and stopped going to church, I essentially cut myself off from my social network. But friends who live elsewhere than where I live now continued to keep in contact, but as I found it increasingly awkward to avoid telling them I was gay and to deal with telling them that I was no longer active, I have tended to slowly withdraw from these friends too, to essentially ignore their e-mails or phone calls.

I am at a point now where this is becoming really painful for me. I hate cutting people off from my life, especially people I cared a lot about and for many years. On the other hand, I am terrified of the reaction if I come out to them. I guess it is partly a control issue; I want to be the one who burns the bridges, who does the rejecting, not the other way around. Although I don't think of myself as rejecting them, but rather protecting them from an apostate and a homosexual too boot.

Further exacerbating the problem I think is that I have been slow to make new friends. I do have other, non-LDS friends, mostly from my school days or from work, but many of my closest non-LDS friends live at great distances from me. And I have moved so many times in my adult life that I have gone through this process of having to make new friends so often that I think I am a bit burned out on doing it yet again at a time in my life when I feel like I should be settled. But I realize that this failure to build new friendships has had some negative effects in preventing me from dealing better with how to relate now to my LDS friends.

I was also reading through former governor Jim McGreevey's memoirs and noticed him talk about dealing with "carried shame" and how it affected him. I realize that I have a lot of that, too, although not all of it is from being gay...in my family context, being Mormon was difficult at times (though I had it easy compared to many) and so I tended to compartmentalize to protect my religious life from my family. All of this hiding different parts of myself from different people has been tiring and destructive.

Anyway, this post is a bit of a ramble, but I just wanted to get these thoughts down while they are preoccupying my mind.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

and to all a good night

I am here visiting with my parents and relatives this Christmas Eve night, at the end of a long and pleasant day. The day started with music, as I sang a solo this morning at my parents' church (in fact it is the same church where I was christened as a baby), and ended with us attending a Christmas Eve service at another church in my parents' village. No snow anywhere, the first time in southern Ontario that we've had a green Christmas in some time (though not unheard of).

Anyway, I wish all of you a very happy Christmas and a prosperous and happy 2007. I look forward to many more blog entries and exploring the territory that we are each exploring as gay Mormon or gay ex-Mormon men, some married, some single, some divorced...whatever each one's place, I have learned from all of you.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

mormon guys are nice

One of the things that I miss about being an active Latter-day Saint is getting to be around a lot of really nice guys (well, guys and gals, but right now I'm focused on the guys). Not every guy, of course, but I met over the years, and particularly as a full-time missionary, a lot of guys who were "nice" by my standards. By "nice" I mean, they weren't totally stuck up on themselves, didn't they were God's gift to humanity, were not just muscleheads or jocks (though they could be that too) but had intellectual interests, had an interest in their spiritual lives, could express feelings and emotions other than rage or bravado, could be musical and artistic, and so forth. I have met even a few guys I would call true "Renaissance men", who were so well-rounded it was amazing.

I found myself often feeling attracted to these kinds of guys. They were often quite idealistic, wanted to give back to the world, etc. They inspired me by their qualities; I loved to be around them.

I realize that Mormons have no monopoly on virtue, and that there are many "nice" guys outside of the LDS church. I also realize that Mormons have lots of problems, that there are lots of dysfunctional families and there is a lot of manipulation and abuse, "unrighteous dominion" in too many relationships within the LDS church, both institutionally speaking and at the family level.

But, still, I miss being around those kind of guys, because I have yet to really find quite the same concentration of them outside of Mormonism. It's why I have become an avid reader of gay Mormon guys' blogs...you guys are those "nice" guys I like to be around. You inspire me and give me a hope that in due course I will be able to build a relationship with that kind of guy.

All of that said, I realize that my real problem may be that I am still clinging to a lot of the judgmentalism of my Mormon years, whether consciously or unconsciously. I need to work on that, but it doesn't mean that just because something was associated with Mormonism I want to toss it overboard. I think good things, true ideas, etc. stand on their own and have merit whatever their source. I want to keep the good I gained from Mormonism while jettisoning the not good. Still, it leaves me wondering whether I am closing myself too much to the good that I could find in the non-Mormon world.