Sunday, January 17, 2016

Who are you? Part 3 - Coming out of the closet twice

I had planned on rolling out a bunch of these "Who are you?" segments, but then the whole Handbook policy leak happened and that shifted the focus in my writing and thoughts (along with many other Moho bloggers.)

I feel this is an appropriate time to bring you another one! I've had several private conversations with this interviewee, and he's just awesome. This past year, he's dealt with coming out of the closet twice 1) as gay and 2) as ex-Mormon. I told him several times that his story will help others gay Mormons trying to figure out what to do with their future. And he writes so well bringing it all together - plus he has great analogies. You'll find our "interview" below.

For the past couple "Who are you?" segments, click here. And If 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. I promise full anonymity. You give me your one single fact - and I'll ask my questions based on that.


Q. Describe your correlation/involvement to the Moho blogging community.
A. My involvement is actually in infancy. I've read Moho blog posts occasionally but never been a regular patron. Recently I've been thinking about starting a blog or finding somewhere to share my thoughts and stories but I'm still on the fence. I've been sharing some of my experiences on Reddit and it has been helpful for me as I deconstruct myself and try to figure out who I really am at my core.

Q. What's life been like both gay and Mormon?
A. Being gay and Mormon is like being the Incredible Hulk. Most of the time things are alright, and you live a normal life, because you have compartmentalized so thoroughly that an entire side of who you are is locked away tight. However, often things happen that will set you off. Maybe you see your nieces and nephews playing and realize that you'll never experience having a family of your own. Or it could be a remark in church about eternal families and the necessity of marriage. It could just be nothing--you're sitting on a bus and you forget to forget.
Suddenly the walls you've built in your mind crumble and it hits you and you're reminded: I'm gay. Except you don't turn into a giant green monster of epic strength; you turn into a puddle of agonizing emotions. You know what you are. You've heard your church leaders talk about it: you're a pervert, an abomination, abhorrent.
All of the words said about it run through your mind. Your mind replays in exquisite detail the look of disgust that played across your mother's face when she saw a gay kiss on television. Each joke, each grimace, each condemnation. You know that all of that is unknowingly directed at you. You're an abomination that is hiding in plain sight. If they knew the real you.. 
But there's no reason for them to ever know because you don't want to spend an eternity in torment cut off from your family. Because you really believe it. You believe the things that have been taught by the people you've trusted your whole life. So nobody, not even your most homophobic family member, could possibly hate you as much as you hate yourself. Your mind plays over the options endlessly: 
  • embrace my disgusting self, and be cut off from my family in the next life, condemned to endless torture;
  • live a life of celibacy, with no companionship. An entire life alone, with pity and mild disgust from those around you being your only company;
  • suicide--cleansing the filth of your existence from the world, but guaranteeing your place in a hell and breaking your families heart
Sometimes pushing the Incredible Hulk back into his box, rebuilding the walls of denial, and forgetting about The Secret took only minutes or seconds. Sometimes it would take months. 
Life as a gay Mormon is feigned normalcy when you can manage the repression and sheer agony when you can't. 
Note: I write those options out in the way I thought of things growing up in the church. I know now that being gay is not filthy and that I'm a good person who deserves a happy, normal life.

Q. What's your current status with the church?
A. I've always been very invested in the church. It wasn't enough to just go to church, I felt like I really needed to live it in every aspect of my life. I'd planned to live a life of celibacy and I did...for twenty eight years. 
At one point however, I took a break from going to church for a couple weeks. After several years of going to a young single adult each week and listening to the constant reminders of a marriage I'd never have, I decided I needed a break from the torturous banality of it all. I stopped attending for a short while and when I did I was hit with a shocking realization: I was happy without church attendance in my life. In some ways I think I'd expected my life to fall apart and feel terrible on the weeks I skipped church. The reality was that nothing changed; if anything I found myself feeling more fulfilled and less focused on my own problems. 
This was opposite from what I expected would happen and it threw me for a loop. I decided I'd better get things figured out so I set to reading church materials to try to reconfirm my testimony. Unfortunately for the church, I'd learned a lot about critical thinking since the last time I'd really given the church an honest look. This time around I studied both sides of the issues, chased sources, and didn't accept platitudes and non-answers. After a lot of study and soul searching, I came to the conclusion that the church is not what it claims it is. I left the church almost a year ago and will at some point have my records removed if I'm not excommunicated first.

Q. Are you out to friends and family? If you're not out, what keeps you in the closet?
A. I'm out to my immediate family only, as well as a couple of friends that I knew would be supportive due to their being in similar situations, or no longer Mormon. 
Growing up, I was as closeted as you could get. The thought of admitting I was gay to anyone was enough to conjure detailed suicide plans. If I had been outed as a youth, there is no question in my mind: I would not have survived that day. For lots of years I tried to convince myself that I was imagining things. The thought that I could be gay was too awful to contemplate. 
After leaving the church, things quickly turned on their head and I became much less ashamed of my sexuality. However, I didn't think it was fair to drop two bombs on my family at the same time so I waited for a while before telling my parents. My siblings found out shortly after, and I plan to tell close friends soon, and then make a general social media announcement. I'm impatient to be out of the shadows that I've hidden in for so many years.

Q. What is your current status? (Single, in a relationship, etc.) Are you happy?
A. Right now I'm single. I'm temporarily living in a rural town, so my opportunities to meet people are beyond limited. My whole life I've craved companionship, but it was never a possibility. I'm like an audiophile who was born deaf--my one desire was an impossibility. 
Yet now, here I am. I'm impatient to begin. Hopefully soon I will find a job in another state, move, and be able to find mutual affection for the first time in my life. It's incredible for me to think about. So am I happy? Right now I'm in agony waiting, worrying about the unknowns, and terrified that I won't be able to find the right person. However, I have hope and that's more than I have ever had in my life, so yes; I'm ecstatic.

Q. Who is your celebrity crush?
A. Celebrity crush? Why isn't that plural? How can I possibly pick just one celebrity crush? The best I can do is three: Chris Pratt, Channing Tatum, and Brendon Urie. I've got a thing for people who are comfortable laughing at themselves.

Q. How do you see yourself in the future? (Staying with the church, leaving it, balance both sexuality and church, etc.)
A. Once my family and friends have had a little time for my being gay to sink in I'd like to leave the church on paper. I think severing that technicality would give things a note of finality that would help my subconscious as well as my parents. My parents go through constant torture; hoping that I'll change my mind and somehow the glass will be unbroken. Having my name removed would help I think. 
In my wildest of dreams this is where I see myself: in love with a man who feels the same way about me. Some days I'll wake up before he does, and I'll just watch him while he peacefully sleeps and wonder how I ever thought that self-hate and a lifetime of denial was an option. We'll explore, grow, and learn together. Some nights we'll just curl up on the couch and read. On the weekend we go camping--and as we cuddle together for warmth we stare up at the stars and we talk about life. When the time is right we adopt children and spend our lives loving them. That's my dream, and I hope that someday that will be my future.

Q. What was your immediate reaction to the Handbook policy change on gay couples and kids?
A. I felt like I'd been kicked in the gut with a boot made of knives. Even though I had left the church, this was a clear message of intolerance. All of my family, immediate and extended, on both sides...everyone is Mormon. How would this affect their treatment of me? And what about the people that are still trying to make things work with the church?  
I may not want my children near the church, but that doesn't make me feel any less hurt for those that do. There is no defending it; the policy change is despicable. If those words are from God, then I have no desire to spend eternity with that God. The silver lining was that the policy change set things in motion and a couple days after it was leaked I came out to my parents.

Q. Anything else you'd like to add?
A. Whether you're still an active believer in the church or not; don't ever hate yourself or be ashamed of who you are. You've probably gone through most of your life hearing disparaging remarks, directly or indirectly. This isn't something you chose. It isn't a weakness, temptation, or character flaw. 
Hating yourself because you are gay is like hating yourself because you were born with blue eyes. If you can't accept yourself now, cut out those who pull you down and find those that lift you up. Because afterlife or not, this life is way too short to be spent in misery and self-loathing. If you need someone to talk to get in touch with me.  (GMS Note: contact me, and I'll put you in touch with him) 

Saturday, January 2, 2016

2016: The year of being adventurous and trying new things

Happy New Year! (Sometimes I feel silly dating these posts as I know someone will read this 6-8 months from now when it definitely wouldn't be appropriate to say 'Happy New Year.')

I've decided to be more adventurous and try new things in 2016. So on January 1, 2016, I got a massage. I know what you're thinking. A massage?! How is that new and/or adventurous?! Well here's the thing: I've never gotten a massage before. (and random shoulder rubs from friends and mission companions don't count.)

Here's why I've never taken the plunge:

1) I've never understood the appeal. Friends have talked about it, but I've never had the urge to rush out and get a massage myself.

2) I've always been kind of modest. I don't like taking off my shirt in public.

3) I have a hard time relaxing. I'm a multitasker and the thought of sitting and doing nothing (or having something done to you) makes me feel a little uneasy.

But screw the above three points. I'm gonna do it!

I did one of those Korean foot reflexology places. Where you get a foot massage, then a full body massage for cheap. I spent $30 + tip for an hour of pampering. (I use the term 'pampering' lightly.) And if I didn't like it, I wouldn't be out tons of money.

I picked a place close and read all the reviews and tips on Yelp, so I knew what to expect. I wasn't really in the mood to proclaim that "This is my first time" to the receptionist and therapist.

While waiting, I was wondering if I'd get a guy or girl. I would be content with either, but knew if it were a girl, there'd be no awkward boners. :)

A lady motioned me to a chair and was told "She will be with you shortly." Ok, a woman. I can deal with that.

So, I was surprised when a nice looking man walked out and pointed to remove my shoes and socks. Oh boy. This could get interesting.

It was then I realized this guy spoke no English, which made it even more interesting!

While my feet were soaking in hot water, he did various things to my neck, arms, legs, hands, etc. At one point, our fingers interlocked. It felt nice holding hands. I wanted to say, "Can you hold on just a little longer." But due to the language barrier and potential awkwardness, I refrained.

As for the foot massage. It too was nice. That was until he started doing something funky to each individual toe. It was a mixture of torture and pain while kinda feeling good at the same time. My eyes were covered with a cloth and I was too afraid to peek and see what crazy procedure he was doing.

Relax. I had to keep telling myself this. Point #3 from above was really hitting me and I just needed to calm down.

It was then he pointed to my shoes (for me to grab them) and maneuvered me to a private room. Oh boy. Here goes nothing. He did the 'unbutton your shirt' motion with his hands, and left the room. Shirt goes off. Wait. Do I take off my pants too?! (I took off my pants since that's how it's done in the movies.) Wait. What do I do with this cloth on the massage chair?! I quickly threw it on top of me as I heard a knock and no-English-guy returned.

He gently grabbed my underwear and lowered it slightly. Oh great. It's one of THOSE massage places! :) (It's not, his range of motion was just below my underwear line.)

Then came the massage. Oh boy. It felt good, but I knew I had all sorts of knots (again, first timer!) so parts were a little tender. The massage dude was sensing my discomfort thanks to my stiff arms and clenched fists. He asked "OK?" a few times, to which I always replied with "Mm-hhm."


The hour was up (it went by fast!) and it was time to put my clothes back on. In a heavy accent, he said "thank you" and "goodbye" and I was on my way. I felt a little lightheaded as I walked to my car, but overall, it was an enjoyable experience. I'd say I was comfortable 85% of the time. Next time, I'll try to relax more.

A day later, my back is a little sore, but I'm already thinking about going back in a couple weeks.

I'm sorry if you get massages all the time, and you found this post extremely boring!!! :) But getting a massage was definitely something new and adventurous and I'm glad I did it.

(And if you have any tips/recommendations for other types of massages, please let me know in the comments!)