Sunday, October 25, 2015

Who are you? Part 2 - Not all of us are Moho's

Speaking on behalf of Adele: Hello.

In my continued quest to share the not-so-public stories of fellow Moho's, I bring you Part 2. However, this story does not involve a Moho. (Say what?!) I've learned that not all readers to this blog are Mormon and gay! Who would've thunk.

I was contacted by an awesome guy who called himself a "moderately-secular Jew" and my curiosity piqued. I tossed out a few questions and below you'll read his story. It's so interesting to learn about someone who grew up in a different environment, but how similar our stories can be. (All his answers are great, but I especially like the response to the next-to-last question.)  

I really love doing this. I hope you'll share your story with me as well.  

Q.  Briefly explain your correlation to the Moho community. 
A. Well, when I was first coming out for real, I was Googling around and somehow found myself on a Moho blog. Quite frankly, it was really interesting and it was linked to lots of other similar blogs. I've always really loved personal narratives (This American Life, The Moth, etc.) and they were basically people going through something similar to what I was going through, but in very different circumstances. I guess it put things in perspective. After reading them for a while, I became use to the terminology and it has sort of remained something interesting and very human to read when I'm procrastinating. I sometimes feel a bit like I'm invading your community, so I tend to try not to be too involved other than reading.

Q. As a non-Mormon, what attracted you to all the gay Mormon bloggers? 
A. Oh, well, I guess this is a bit complicated. So, I was raised in a relatively secular Jewish family and lived in an area where no one was particularly religious, regardless of what religion they were. I've always been interested in religion in general and more conservative forms of Christianity in particular. It's just very different than what I grew up in, so it's interesting to hear that perspective. That was probably what came to mind when I stumbled on a moho blog. I guess I've learned in time from bloggers how different Mormonism is and I've gained an appreciation for it. I think it's pretty neat for a lot of reasons: It's uniquely American, it's based around a very organized form of community, and it gives really practical implications for how to live your life. I don't think it's for me, but it's definitely interesting.

Q. Explain your coming out experience. 
A. It sort of went in two phases. I first told some people at a party in high school. A friend asked me if I was gay, I think as a joke, but I had been thinking of telling people anyway, so I made myself spit out yes and then burst into tears. While my then-girlfriend (!) was consoling me, I made my brother call my parents and tell them. They weren't angry, but they were concerned that I hadn't thought it through and and a psychologist friend of theirs recommended that I see a therapist who focused on teen identity issues. He kept trying to convince me that there was no reason to lock down my identity and that it would come in time. I was scared and wasn't really in the fighting mood, so I just stayed closeted for the rest of high school. 
When I got to my very liberal college, I quickly realized that any trepidation I had would have to take a backseat to my desire to date some of the very beautiful gay men that seemed to be everywhere. With the help of a support group, I told my friends and my immediate family, which by that point was pretty uneventful. It was stressful for the first year or so because I didn't really have anyone to confide in other than my support group (probably one reason why I really appreciated the Moho blogs), but after that, it was good.

Q. What's your status right now? (Single, in a relationship, etc.)  Are you happy? 
A. I'm married. I met my husband seven years ago, less than a year after I came out. We had both just gotten out of other relationships and he claimed he could never see us together, but after a few months of hanging out together every day, he finally came around. We got married last summer in a big, casual, outdoor ceremony with my older brother officiating, our other brothers as best men, and our parents holding the poles of the chuppah (it's a wedding canopy that represents your new household). 
I'm really very happy. My husband is great - he's odd and delightful. We live in a gay-ish part of a big city, where a lot of our friends are in walking distance and my cousins are close by. I have a job I really like, where I'm out and where my husband comes to hang out with my office. I had thought at one point that being gay would prevent me from working in most sectors, but in reality, turns out you can do just fine as a gay guy in the defense industry. Things are good with my family and I still have almost all my old friends. I've also made a lot of new friends, primarily through work and rock climbing, which I do with a gay group.

Q. What advice do you have for Moho's who may be struggling with their sexuality and trying to balance church attendance? 
A. I am wildly unqualified to give advice on this - I got more religious when I came out. Here's my best shot: So, when I was a senior in college, there was a big argument in my religious community about a reading of the sexual prohibitions in Leviticus at an important occasion. It was a long story and the outcome was fine, but it left me with a bad taste in my mouth about how some people in the community wanted to preserve an unimportant tradition at the expense of the dignity of their gay peers, against the advice of our rabbi. At the same time, my boyfriend was going through a serious crisis and the only time we could really relax together was Friday night, when I was usually at prayers. Things were also getting very serious between us and I began to realize I would have to make some concessions to make a life with the non-Jewish guy I loved (intermarriage is still taboo for Jews, much more so than homosexuality). 
I ultimately decided that I had to approach religion on my own terms or it wouldn't be a source of joy for me anymore. If I skipped Sabbath prayers to have a family dinner with him, so be it. I could make decisions on an ad hoc basis without worrying how religious or non-religious it makes me. 
I've found that has worked really well for me. I realize it's a lot harder to approach Mormonism on your own terms, but I think it's at least a helpful way to conceptualize it.

 Q.  Anything else you'd like to add? 
A. Whoever you are and whatever you're facing, you're not the first and you're not the only one. People can get so wrapped up in the idea that they are unique or in an unusual situation. In truth, everyone around you has been in a slightly unique situation and they all got out okay. Take strength in the fact that others have faced the same thing and move forward to whatever that might be.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Sometimes I just wanna eat dinner on the patio

No idea who these people are. Just your basic stock photo. :)
First off, thanks to all of you who responded to my "Who Are You?" idea. I've got some great stories from readers and looking forward to sharing. (If you're wondering what this is all about, or you'd like to contribute - check out the last post for details.)

Moving on. The more I've accepted my sexuality, the less active I've become in the LDS Church. I've wanted to stay under the radar when it comes to church activity, and I've successfully done so. Here's how I did it:

1. Move out of the old ward.
2. Transfer records to the new ward.
3. Don't go to the new ward.

I've only been contacted twice since moving to my new place. Both included a casual invite to attend church, but neither carried much pressure.

The break from church has been nice - I'm less stressed, anxiety has gone down, and I don't feel as depressed. Plus having a full weekend - 2 whole days - is pretty dang awesome.

But there are some repercussions from flying under the radar: my social life has disintegrated. All my life, my main circle of friends have been people in my ward, stake, seminary, institute, etc. etc. Yes, there have been co-worker friends, neighborhood friends, etc., but the majority have been from church. Now that I've moved (about 25 miles) from the old ward, starting anew socially has been difficult. While I consider myself an extrovert, I've really struggled making new friends outside of the Mormon bubble.

Online friends/acquaintances suggest I look for people on Meetup or try a gay bar/church/hangout. But the thought of that gives me as much anxiety as returning to church! 

I realized just how much I miss social outings a couple weeks ago; I met up with my old group of church friends. (We could meet more often, but our current distance makes it a real challenge.) It was a simple restaurant dinner out on the patio. The weather was amazing, food was good, and I thoroughly enjoyed catching up with everyone. We all laughed and had a great time. I miss these moments I've taken for granted for the past 20 years.

I know what you're thinking. "GMS, you've decided to not go to church anymore, so quit being a cry baby and find some new friends." (While the TBM's are likely suggesting I just go back to church.) And I could respond with: "Yes, you're probably right. I need to get out more." Seeing this all typed out is somewhat of a motivation to get be back on the social track. Stay tuned.

And if you think you live near me (not in Utah), hit me up! :)

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Who are you? Part 1 of (hopefully) many

I've shared this plenty of times - but it's worth repeating: I love blogging. I'm grateful I have this outlet to share my story and what's on my mind. Blogging is "so 5 (10?) years ago," but it's all about showing up fashionably late. It's liberating to spew my thoughts of growing up gay and Mormon.

I have no regrets in starting this little blog two years ago and for various reasons, I'm glad I've kept my posts anonymous. Ironically, today is National Coming Out Day, but sorry, I won't be doing that publically on my blog! (But those who've reached out to me know that once I'm comfortable chatting, I reveal my true self and am Facebook friends with a few of you!)

As I've shared my story with you over the past two years, there's one thing that I DON'T like in authoring a blog: I don't know YOUR story. Yes, you. The person reading this right now. YOU. If you haven't reached out via email or left a comment, I don't know anything about you. And that bugs me! Blogger does throw out a few analytics, but still, I'm in the dark and I have so many questions I want to ask YOU. Yes, you. I love reading others' stories - hearing them all was my motivation to start sharing my own. They're all so different. So fascinating. And for many, so secret.  

While Gay Mormon Stories and Far Between are great outlets to share stories, you lose the anonymity. Staying anonymous allows ME to share a little bit more - a few extra secrets. So this gave me an idea. I'll start collecting YOUR stories and post them here. All anonymously, of course. People tend to share more and dig a little deeper if they know there would be no repercussions. This is similar to the confessions stunt I did, but on a more detailed scale. (Sheesh, I'm so nosy!) :) And again, those of you who know the 'real me,' the reason for doing this makes perfect sense!

I've reached out to a few people and I'll continue to do so. Below you'll find the first Q & A. This interview is with a straight woman who married a gay man. (*Names have been changed.) The only background I had was this was a woman in a Mixed-Orientation Marriage and I based my questions off that single fact - and I tossed out all the questions at once. These stories are in random order. I have no reason for starting off with this interview - other than the fact it's extremely interesting.

If YOU (yes, you) want to share your story - let me know. Contact me using the form on the right or drop me a line - gaymormonsouthpaw (at) gmail (dot) com. And again, I promise full anonymity. You give me your one single fact - and I'll ask my questions based on that.

Without further ado....

Q. Briefly explain your correlation to the Moho community. 
A. There is almost no motivation for me to remain connected to the gay Mormon community because I have left Mormonism entirely. Fairly early in my marriage I fantasized about turning my mixed-orientation marriage into a source of strength for other mormons in the same type of marriage. We could host fabulous brunch support group sessions with other couples and help strengthen other marriages. It was a very complex set of dreams that I had hoped to accomplish to make this arrangement make some sense. Then I woke up and realized that I wanted absolutely nothing to do with Mormonism any more, so those dreams of heroism died an unfulfilled death.

Q. Did you know your husband was gay before marrying him? 
A. I did. There were a couple of stages of coming to this awareness. After our first date, my co-workers were asking how it went and I told them that I would probably never see him again because Craig* was pretty obviously gay. I figured that was the end of that. But Craig kept calling and we kept going out so I began to dismiss the idea that he was actively gay, and was maybe just effeminate.After we had dated for about a year, we took a long weekend to drive and let Craig meet my parents. This may seem a little unbelievable but on that drive Craig was reading the new Greg Louganis biography. Once I saw that book, I figured at that point that he was definitely gay, or at least had those inclinations. On the drive back from meeting my parents, Craig made the big reveal. For as aware as I was that Craig was probably gay, the talk went poorly and I freaked. It made it so real to hear him say that about himself, plus I realized the degree to which he still identified with his homosexuality. That was startling to hear.

Q. How did 'the talk' go once he confessed? 
A. I think the talk went poorly, considering all the clues that I had already picked up on. At this point I loved him and this was a big unknown and risky variable that was being introduced into the relationship. It was horribly scary and I didn't expect the massive emotional reaction that came out. It was hours of sobbing and I was so sad.But I'm a live-and-let-live type of gal and thought that everyone deserved their chance at making a family work so by the next day I was pretty chill with the idea. I told him almost immediately that I knew he was still Craig and this new information didn't change my feelings for him.In hindsight, that was idiocy. Knowing what I know now, I realize that I was only being given part of the information. I didn't know this at the time but Craig had already had multiple male sex partners and he was still actively banging his best friend, but at the time, all I saw was a nice dude who wanted a shot at having a family.

Q. What are the advantages of being married to a gay man? 
A. Craig was a somewhat stereotypical gay man. He liked to shop, he liked to chat, and he liked to keep the floors clean. So those were all pretty handy benefits. I am domestic-skills impaired so for our first Christmas as a married couple I gave him a sewing machine, knowing that I would soon get some fantastic curtains for our new house.

Q. Disadvantages? 
A. Too many and too painful to dig too deep here. The overarching problem is that everything was a lie. He was trying to fake straight because his conservative, LDS upbringing guilted him into that. I'm not the first person to use this terminology but it was an immediate sensation that I had just been pulled into the closet with him, and NOT in a fun high school make-out sort of way. I cut off my friends and family. I completely turned inward because of this big secret that I was now also living. In retrospect, it was devastating to me emotionally but I was loyal to a fault and would never throw him over for something that was entirely out of his control.The major problem is that our two kids ended up caught in this lie. In the end, I learned that entering a MOM is a completely selfish move for both Craig and myself. I was selfish to expect him to limit himself to a heterosexual marriage that he had only limited ability to engage in. He was selfish to expect me to give up a normal sense of marriage, partnership, and sex life to play cover for his homosexuality. He married me to be his beard, and everybody lost.

Q. What is your status now? (divorced? Exmo? etc.) What's his status? 
A. As for the status of the marriage, we are right now working through a contentious divorce and it is not pleasant. He has a new partner and "has never been happier." He wants to leg it away from us and pretend that there is no financial responsibility to us because he is so happy moving on and pretending that we don't exist.As for religion, I am exmormon and haven't attended mormon church services for maybe about three years now. Our kids are teens and they have also left the mormon church. Craig doesn't talk to me at all and lives a few thousand miles away so I am only guessing, but I'm pretty sure that he is also now exmormon.

Q. Do you two remain friends? 
A. No. I am too susceptible to his lies and self-serving manipulation so I have had to make a clean break now that the kids are old enough to manage their own communications with him. Plus I see how he has treated his kids now that he has a new partner and wants to pretend that they don't exist, and it's pretty difficult being friends with that kind of person. The dishonesty killed the friendship and relationship far more than any gayness could have.

Q. What advice do you have for folks about to enter a MOM? 
A. Anyone entering a MOM is making a horrible mistake. It cannot succeed and is entirely unfair to absolutely everyone involved. Each partner is being selfish and both are being cruel to any resulting children.

Q. How much blame to you put on the church? (If any.) 
A. I definitely hold the church as being partially to blame. Craig was so indoctrinated and terrified to be his gay self that he had to fake a heterosexual marriage. I was so indoctrinated that my only path forward as a woman was to be married and produce children that I accepted this sham of a marriage. The church puts this burden of expectation of a single path forward for its members and that will always be a recipe for disaster, especially when dealing with encouraging mixed-orientation marriage, as was the church policy back when we were dating and married.

Q. Is life better now? How so? 
A. Life is better to be away from the daily head games that come when one partner is sleeping with dozens of anonymous randoms every month and racking up the more permanent lovers in several cities that he had to travel to for work. The lies are over and done with but I'm now almost 50 years old and have little to no prospect of ever trusting another man again. My kids miss their dad but they don't recognize that man that he is now. He used to be an engaged father who was fun and awesome. Now that he is done living the lie, he has moved on in every respect and has no time for them at all anymore. He will go several months without calling them. It is a very messy situation. Nobody won.

Q. Anything else you'd like to add? 
A. Maybe one thing that some people might wonder is whether the kids now know that their father is gay and how that went down. This is something that I thought about a lot before I acted. For about a year before I told them, I introduced them to the TV show "Modern Family." We lived abroad and didn't watch US television so they had never seen it. I introduced that show to them to normalize the idea of gay couples of how they are just normal members of the family.One afternoon I gave them the basic run down to catch them up on the details of their family. I told them that their dad was gay (he was already living thousands of miles away from us at the time is why he wasn't a part of the conversation), that he wanted a divorce, and that he had a new boyfriend. They were not at all shocked about the gay part, and hardly cared. Gay is so normal to this generation that the impact from that was incredibly minimal. The massive impact was how they were crushed that he had told me he wanted a divorce. That was the entire emotional blow. But funnily enough, my clever children processed this information for a few minutes, asked some basic questions, and then said, "Hey, is this why you had us start watching 'Modern Family?'" That was so funny that it only took them minutes to see right through my plan to normalize as much as possible. My kids were 15 and 13 at the time.