Thursday, November 30, 2006

Going Home


Going home for Thanksgiving was good. Over the last few years when I have returned home from school for one reason or another I am always inundated with a flood of emotions; sometimes positive sometimes negative. The last few times had been really good, but this time I was surprised that I felt so disconnected from my family –as if I lived in a different world than they. Perhaps there is some validity to that. I have been acting more on my homosexual tenancies in the last few months than I ever have in my entire life. And conversely, as it is no surprise, my family lives in a very heterosexual world.

I first came out to my parents when I returned from my mission. I had such gained a level of self confidence from my mission that I felt ready to tell them with some assurance of support. My parents are wonderful and have always been particularly in tune with their children’s feelings. After the first time speaking openly about t
he fact that I struggle with same-gender attraction issues, it became somewhat of a closed topic –not because my parents were in denial or particularly uncomfortable with the topic, but mostly because I wanted them to know that I struggled and leave it at that… I didn’t want any prodding or pushing for more information. My parents were simply there for me if I needed. Years have passed since that first uncomfortable discussion and very little was ever discussed again. However, again, the time had come for greater transparency with my parents, and Thanksgiving provided me that opportunity.

Esse
ntially I shared with my parents everything I have written here in my blog save the detail that my blog provides. It felt good to share and be completely honest in my feelings and my parents truly respect that I trust them enough to share these things. The bulk of my discussion centered on my unresolved feelings toward the Church. (See my Nov 15th post.) It’s not that I don’t believe in Christ or something as much as it is that I’m unresolved and un-reconciled to the doctrine of Christ –that it just doesn’t make sense to me.

My father is a convert to the Church. He joined several years after marrying my mother, but even so, my upbringing in the Church was less than typical. And though they tried to hide it from us kids for fear of negative influence, my parents still drank occasionally and had their morning cup of joe until I was in High School. I used to resent my father’s wishy
-washy attitude towards the commandments. I wanted someone who was firm and stern in the gospel. I used to stand in judgment of him for being so lukewarm. My father always had a respect for the sacred. It wasn’t that he had a wide rebellious streak as much as he really just struggled with his testimony. Fearing that his un-sureness would influence my siblings and me, my father never spoke of the Church or his testimony. In fact my father was never a leader in the household for the most part. We never had family home evening or scripture study or family prayer except at dinner time. My father just didn’t want to lie to himself nor to us. He never really spoke of this concept that I am writing about, but I have put the pieces together as I have gotten older and completely relate to where he stands with the Church. However he has my mother and she supports him in his times of doubt, but it is still difficult for him.

So anyway, there I sat on the couch across from my parents pouring my heart out about my concerns. Mom cried, Dad understood. I find myself echoing the same concerns that have haunted my father and consequently trouble
d my mother for years. We are not your average Mormon family. Neither my father nor I have ever felt the truly lasting, permanent conversion feelings that so many members claim to have from living the Mormon lifestyle. I’m not saying that the Church is false or wrong or doctrinally flawed, but merely that I have had no long lasting testimonial witness. I won’t deny that I have felt things at times and that the Church has done much good in my life, but that overwhelmingly I have never been converted. I tried, forced, and have lied to myself for years about the Church because I wanted so badly for it to be true and for it to rescue me from my homosexuality. [Note that I wanted it to be true and to rescue me. Not simply to be true for the sake of rescuing me.]

Like I said already, my parents are very intuitive and incredibly connected to their children. My parents actually confessed to me something of particular interest this last week. Apparently when I was five or so they took me to a psychiatrist because they had concerns that I might be… ummm… how do I say it…. Gay? Yeah. They had some inclination early on.
Don’t
get me wrong, it's not like I’m “obvious.” Even my gay friends wouldn't have guessed. I’m not feminine or walk swishy and most of the time I do all of my own work on my truck. About the only truly “gay characteristic” I have is that I know how to dress well, but even straight guys can do that (though not all).

Anyway, as I shared openly my concerns about everything from the Church to tryin
g to identify my sexual orientation my parents were able to voice concerns that they had had for some time but were unable to discuss because of closed lines of communication. Marriage, my future… My mom is concerned about my salvation. I don’t really know what to tell them as to where I go from here nor do I want to make them promises. Really my mother knows what a struggle it has been for my father to be in the church and for her to see me come forth with the same concerns but with the added burden of homosexuality she really worries that there is really no hope at all for me to ever stay in the Church.

I don’t kn
ow why God has never really ‘come to me’ and put something permanent and lasting in my heart. Why hasn’t he done the same with my father? If I knew the Church were true and I believed in Christ and had a firm testimony that the Church was true and that Christ was who they say he is and that he would support me and aid me in my battles I could continue on being a member of the Church. I could deal with my homosexuality and being Mormon at the same time. But without any sort of foundation to build on, it’s somewhat unreasonable for me to expect to continue to wander in the halls of Mormonism and keep confusing myself.

And for clarity’s sake, I want to explain that I don’t expect that God would sudden
ly put some testimony out-of-the-blue in my heart, but rather that from day to day, church act to church act, I would receive sustenance that would build me up. Instead it was always a battle reading my scriptures. I never felt like it got me any closer to God and it only served to frustrate me even more. So I still remain unresolved. I don’t know where I go from here and I don’t know what the future holds for me. I fully recognize that I am the author of my life and that I choose where I want to go and what I want to do. I want to be happy, and I want to be close to God and I think that those two ideals are completely achievable. I have no idea how to achieve it though and I don’t want to give up on either one or to feel like I have to give up one to have the other.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Petrified!

I'm going to my parents house for Thanksgiving. I am going to be more open and upfront about whats been going on in my life than I have ever been with them. I am scared to death.

-Cas

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Missing Person


I am disappearing. I hardly recognize myself anymore. I don’t know what’s happening to me. Sometimes I just try to feel nothing because the reality of what is happening to me is such a tragedy. I'm not trying to sound fatalistic or mellowdramatic. If you were to talk to any of my close friends they would tell you that I am ambitious, a leader, a dreamer, and that I am really going places with my life. Most of them still think that of me. But that is all changing. I can hardly cope with my daily life anymore much less really think of cultivating a truly meaningful life.

When did this metamorphosis begin? How did it all come to this?
I suppose it was last January that I had a huge break through. For the first time I really began to live my life. I began the beautiful process of learning to love myself unconditionally. I no longer cared what anyone else thought of me. It was at that
point that being a member of the Church was no longer about keeping up appearances or doing church activities such as scripture reading and home teaching out of fear of not doing EVERYTHING perfectly. Through that process of letting go though, I completely had to reevaluate my reasons for being a member of the Church. Do I really believe it all? I began taking steps backward to find out what I believed in. Essentially over the next several months I began to take the “house” down to the “foundation.”

God –is he there? Yes, I believe he is. Beyond that I don’t know so much.
What does God want from me? Why did he make me as I am? What does he expect from me out of my life and do I have the courage to pursue that?

I am so tired of fighting this, and I don’t feel like I have any strength to fight the battle against my homosexuality any more. I feel like because God never has “rescued me” from it that perhaps I can’t be held accountable for embracing it. But that’s not even the heart of the matter… It’s like the more that I try to accept things that I cannot change and try to do the best that I can, the less desire I have to progress personally and spiritually. Ever since coming to grips with life, I have become more apathetic towards it and a disillusioned pessimist.

I won’t deny that God has played a role in my life. He has helped me to overcome much. He has put me through so many many learning experiences (i.e. trials) that have shaped who I am. I am grateful for them too because I like who I am. All of these learning experiences however have brought me to the place I am at now –that God has lead me here. But now that I am here, I feel like I am left in the dark. Like I was lead into an endless hallway and the door was shut and locked behind me and all of the doors in this endless hall are either locked or lead into another dark endless hallway. I don’t know where to go anymore for answers.

I want to have a meaningful life, but it seems impossible anymore. I am like a musician who has lost his muse. I have begun this downward spiral where I am willing to settle for less. Can you believe it? Mediocrity! Someone as wonderful, as talented, and as great as me is settling for bare minimum out of his life and I don’t even know why damnit! Why have I lost my strength? Why have I lost my zeal for living and making a difference in the world? Where did it go? How can I get it back?

If the real me continues to vanish, what will happen to me? It scares me to death! I don’t know where I’ll be in the next year. I used to have everything planned out and now I don’t even know if I’ll even attempt to accomplish any of my life goals. What am I supposed to do?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

God, Jesus and Satan

In response to the thoughtful comments to my last post, Personal Value, I would like to clarify a few things. There are reasons for leaving the Church, and excuses for leaving the Church. The gripes listed in Personal Value would be excuses for leaving the Church. I have long time friends who have left the Church because of excuses. I want to try to dig into my reasons in this blog. I’m not about to leave the Church just yet, I just need to get this off my chest. I also want to say that I am not questioning my religion based on the fact that I am a homosexual. These are deep rooted concerns that have gnawed at me for some time. The difference now though is that I am being honest with myself about my religious concerns.

I need to start by saing that I KNOW God loves me. He loves me for who I am, how he made me and for who I can become. But mostly he loves me because he created me and in me is a part of who he is. He will always love me infinitely. He is concerned with the details of my life and he wants me to be happy and live with him after this life. I don’t know God personally as much as I would like to, but I need open lines of communication with him again so that I can know him better.

I have a really hard time believing in Satan. I look at all the good and evil in this world and see that the contrasts between good and evil essentially distinguish good from evil. In other words, you cannot have good without evil and you cannot know the difference without experiencing the two. Isn’t that the whole teaching in lessons derived from the Garden of Eden?

However, sometimes I look at the concept of Satan as merely an embodiment of the concept of evil but that he is not a real being. Evil is what evil is –the opposite of good. I see Satan as the mythical definition of evil. I think Satan is often used as a scapegoat for temptation. When I am tempted to do something “evil” or to give in to my “natural man” tendencies, isn’t it more just simply a concept of mortality? Of course I am tempted to do this or that thing that is evil; it is in my nature to do so! It is not because there is some mysterious evil being is lurking and trying to convince me. I am mortal with mortal passions.

Conversely, I struggle to believe in Christ. I think his teachings are beautiful. The thought of his suffering at the hands of evil men is a bitter irony to the contrast of the good he did while in mortality. But the idea that someone who lived so long ago having any connection with my life today seems very difficult to embrace. Do I really need a savior? Is Christ simply the embodiment of the longing for good and to be better people? Is it the hope that there is someone there to heal the wounds of mortality? Is the concept of a savior simply a remedy for the need to feel loved and infinitely understood and appreciated? And why can’t God the father do that? Isn’t he all knowing and all powerful? The idea of Christ is nice I suppose, but I have no evidence in my personal experience to believe in him as having any such personal connection with me.

And from what would Christ save me? If our divine purpose here is the experience of learning as mortals as proposed in the Garden of Eden dilemma, how can I be held accountable for the fact that I am flawed? God intended me to make mistakes and to stumble, that’s why life is as it is –flawed, difficult, and painful. But when we learn from life, when we learn from our mistakes, doesn’t that balance out the scales? “Where once I felt and acted this way, now I feel and act this way.” And even after that, I am still a flawed human beyond reconciliation on my own. Essentially, I was put here on Earth with an unfair disadvantage: Mortality. No matter how “good” I try to be, I still won’t be perfect. How can a just god hold me accountable for being short-sighted and weak? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that it doesn’t matter how I live my life, but moreover that grace and mercy should be extended freely as I seek learning and wisdom through the struggles of life.

People talk of there having to be someone to pay a price for the mistakes and imperfections of my mortal life –a mediator, or a savior, -that justice must be served. Why? Why must someone pay some sort of price? I don’t understand. And if there was a need for a mediator, why should I be tearfully, overly, grateful for having one? Like I said, I was put at an unfair disadvantage to begin with, I deserve one. I deserve my “get-out-of-jail free card,” I didn’t stand a chance anyway.

Here at the university, each student is different. All of us have some level of intelligence and work ethic. Some are more gifted than others, and the life situation surrounding each student may add to the success or detract from the success of the student. Sometimes the classes are hard. Some of us get A’s and some of us get B’s and some of us C’s and D’s. However only those who receive F’s do not graduate. Furthermore, there is no one who makes up the difference in the gap between the A student graduate and the D student graduate. We all graduate just the same.

How is that any different in life? As long as we don’t give up completely on growing, learning, and becoming, how can we be held truly accountable for every flaw of mortality? This is why I don’t understand the need for a savior.

Again, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying this as a justification for any behavior. This IS my doctrinal dispute. I have always had a hard time understanding the role of Christ in the church. Most people struggle with accepting the Book of Mormon, prophets, Joseph Smith, temples, authority and on and on. I have never understood Christ or the Atonement.

When I was preparing to go on my mission, I told my stake president that I really didn’t understand Christ and that I didn’t feel like I had any kind of relationship with him, but that I loved God and loved praying to God and that I felt like he heard me. But why close prayer in the name of Christ? What does he have to do with anything? My stake president told me that it really wasn’t something to worry about, serve honorably and just to give it time and eventually I would gain that relationship.

I have spent YEARS reading my scriptures and praying every day, or nearly everyday. The gap between Christ and me has never closed, and I have never felt any lasting feeling of admiration for what people say “Christ has done for me.” I am tired of “reading and praying.” Whenever I express concern for my life or sins or anything, my ecclesiastical leaders tell me to read and pray. I feel like they are telling me to go say ten “Hail Mary’s” and that everything will then be ok. I strain my brain trying to figure out the meaning in the scriptures. As I sit and read I think to myself, “Maybe that is applicable to my situation? Am I receiving personal revelation? What if God is trying to tell me something?” In the end it feels more like superstition. I don’t really get anything out of reading.

Prayer can be good though –really good at times. But again, Christ plays what role for me in prayer? People say we close in the name of Christ because everything we have comes from Christ and that everything we do should be in the name of Christ. Is Christ some heavenly postman who delivers my prayers to God?

I hope I am not seen as sacrilegious or disrespectful. I fundamentally do not understand and I never have. I know to some of you I must also sound terribly arrogant, but let me explain. I have come to know that God loves me. I know that I am of infinite worth regardless of what happens to me or what I do with my life. I really believe that. I also believe that a lot more of us will make it in the end than we think. I’m not about to say that I am happy with my life, but I am happy with who I am –the unique creature that God created. I am being more honest with myself than I have been in a long time. I won’t deny that at one time, I really believed in the Church and that I have had wonderful, spiritual experiences in the Church –amazing experiences. But there was more fear than faith at that time in my life. I can’t live in fear of my own mortality; I won’t.

But to be completely honest… I don’t know what to believe anymore.

PS: If you made it all the way through to the end here, THANK YOU! You guys really help me think and reflect on all angles of this crazy situation I find myself in.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Personal Value


I know it’s late and I should probably force myself into bed, but I was thinking –a dangerous thing at times.

Why should I leave the Church? I’m trying to look at this very objectively. I have no reason not to believe and yet no real reason to believe other than it’s the latest thing at BYU and all my friends are doing it.
I guess the only real reason I would want to leave is to pursue a same-sex relationship. Is that a good enough reason? How does God feel about it? Does he even care? I know I can’t live both the Church and “The World.” I am so tired of mulling this over in my head. I wish it were simpler. I wish I could just be and be content.

I hear so many others on here with such strong convictions and faith. How do you do it?


I am just so confused and disillusioned with it all, I mean the mainstream Church, my ward. I see just as much (if not more) fake believers as I do real believers. [Yes, I know I am stereotyping and judging]

There is this one guy in my ward who just makes me cringe. At family home evening a few weeks ago he made some comment about how our purpose here on Earth is to prove ourselves to God that we can do his will. As if any hint of imperfection and sin would suddenly make us unloved or less loved by God. In the missionary discussions there is a similar line. It always seemed so backward to me.

How can I prove anything to an all-knowing being? I may sound Calvinistic but doesn’t he know the beginning and the end? I believe it is my choice and that I have agency for many things. I can change and grow and live my life to the fullest. It’s my doing, not anyone else’s. But to “prove” my self??? God knows me and my capabilities. There is nothing to prove. And to say that that is our purpose is so narrow and trivial.

And there are many people I see that live their lives in the “doing” phase.
“I can pat myself on the back today because I read my scriptures” or “I did my home teaching” or “I have ____ as my calling” or “because I paid my tithes” or "I went to this confrence" or "I fasted for so long" or "I served as AP on my mission." And they really come unglued if they are perceived as not having filled such duties.

I also hate it when someone gets up to give a talk and immediately discredit everything they have prepared by saying something to the effect of "Yeah, this talk is probably gonna suck because of...." or "Sorry you have to listen to me." Don't they believe in themselves? Or is it just a formality to insult yourself and God?

I’m not bagging on doing good things, I am saying that our value as human beings doesn’t change based upon what we do or don’t do. Our value is based in our heritage as children of God; with the capacity to become as God. And who has that heritage? Everyone! Mormon, Pentecostal, homeless, inmate, Asian, African, Bishop, and yes, homosexual. We are all the same. No one is better or worse. Besides, we are all in the same hell-bound boat right? God cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance so the scripture goes... You, me, President Hinkley, everyone... Granted some are living more fulfilling lives than others, but no one life is more valuable than another. I really believe that.


I see so many people base their personal value on what they have accomplished rather than who they are. Well nobody can do it all! That kind of a mentality breeds low self-esteem and perfectionism. Because I see so much of that I have a hard time buying the “doing” mission of the Church members (as opposed to the true doctrine of pure love in action). Again, I am not bagging on doing good. I am merely saying that motives are everything.

It’s my problem that I allow this to interfere with my own interaction with the Church… I’ve just become, well, disillusioned. I hate it how people try to get you to do something simply to support their own social psychology. I may be judgmental for saying so, but I hate being someone’s project for their own personal insecurities. I hate being someone’s assigned friend when I am Home Taught. I hate it when others think that the only happy people on Earth are Mormons. I hate others valuing me or devaluing me based on my perceived contribution to the Church. Am I just crazy or is this for real?

Can’t you just love me for me? I do.

PS: After reading over this I realize that I sound more annoyed than I really am... I just wish people could love themselves and stop breeding insecurities. I thought that's what the Church is for -to help people love themselves as God loves them... but I guess not. I am a judgemental SOB. Kind of ironic... I am judging people for judging themselves and others... ha.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Missing Piece


I’m feeling a bit melancholy today. The last week has been one of much reflection. I am kind of a blur of emotions right now. I want so much to live the life I was born to live. What I am about to say I recognize is very controversial and I am not trying to stir up the dust or offend anyone. These are merely some of my thoughts.
The causes of homosexuality have been debated time and time again. Ultimately, I believe it is a combination of both environment and genetics. But I guess it is relatively unimportant, because I am who I am. And, in my case, I think it is may be a bit more environmental than genetic but who knows. I’m not about to pour out the story of my childhood and parents and so forth. Rather it will suffice to say that I had a relatively happy childhood with loving parents who did the best they could despite their own significant shortcomings.


I have been in and out of counseling for nearly ten years and I am only 24. I was to my recollection neither abused or unloved nor severely psychologically disturbed in any part of my life. Why such a need for counseling? I certainly have had some deep buried issues that have needed resolution. Counseling has been good. I don’t think I am inherently crazy or overly emotional. I don’t suffer from serious clinical depression or any other diagnosable psychological disorder. I have certainly been through bouts of serious depression and anxiety and even taken medications for brief periods, but this is not characteristic of me or my life.


In any case, I know I am not unique in my struggles and that the struggles I face have similar roots with other men who struggle with same gender attraction issues. I do however recognize that each case is unique yet shares similarities on one or many levels.


Now that I have thrown out my preface and disclaimer, I will cut to the chase. If there are obviously serious psychological issues that many if not most gay/homosexual/SSA/SGA/bisexual (whatever you want to call it) persons struggle with, and a portion of their attraction is caused by their psychology, can they ever have a truly meaningful and completely fulfilling relationship with someone of the same gender? If both partners are wading through heavy emotional/psychological difficulties, doesn’t that set them up for a not-so solid relationship? Isn’t that one of the reasons why the gay community is seen as so promiscuous? And likewise, can they have a fulfilling relationship with someone of the opposite gender? Can this psychology be overcome?


I hear those of us with SSA (for lack of better terminology) that are married talk of the intense struggle they bring into marriage and then the subsequent pain –that many of their sexual relations are forced, and unnatural. I am not questioning their choice or saying it is or was right or wrong for them to get married, but it’s something I must consider if I am to deem heterosexual marriage as an option for me.

Then on the other hand I look at my gay friends and my perception of the gay community. I don’t see many true fulfilling relationships there. There is much pain and many fleeting relationships. I can’t force a relationship there either. And if I was to pursue a same-sex relationship, I can’t help but see it as me giving up on getting to the bottom of my psychology, and really figuring out why I am the way I am, and more importantly who I am. I love self discovery. I see a same-sex relationship as suddenly confining myself to a lifestyle that doesn’t necessarily represent me.

I’ll admit, I have tired the gay scene; albeit only briefly. I found that the fantasy is much better than the reality. Many gay men speak of having a “need to be held in the arms of another man” and that close personal affection is what brings a feeling of resolution. I don’t feel so much “need to be held” however, I understand that “need” as I have felt it in the past, but I have changed and really have confidently grown into myself. I have very mutually satisfying relationships with regular straight guys. I am confident in those relationships.
I think in order to have a truly satisfying sexual experience there must be a level of emotional satisfaction. My experiment upon the gay scene brought sexual satisfaction only to a degree because I received much emotional disappointment.

So I guess the best way to describe how I feel is that I am not emotionally attracted to men, but only physically. I don’t think I feel the need to receive intimate masculine affection emotionally in a homosexual way. I receive the affirmation I that need from my heterosexual male friendships.
Yet somewhere inside, emotionally, I still seek a same-sex relationship. Why?

Consequently, I must ask myself how I feel about women. First, it’s hard to find a woman that really catches my heart. However, when I do find a woman that does, I immediately take on the role of “provider.” I very well can fit into the role of being the leader in a relationship, and that’s what I prefer. I am strong, opinionated, and aggressive with decision making. My relationships with women are fewer than that with men. This didn’t always used to be, but it is now. Maybe I am emotionally attracted to women, if I can find the right kind of woman. It is difficult to say.
And then in response to marriage, what if I was to find the “right” kind of girl, settle down and marry? Would things go great for the first little while and then, because suddenly she is my “everything” would my male relationships suffer and I find myself desiring male intimacy?

I feel as if my life is suddenly put on hold until I can figure out what I really want. I feel like I have to guess and take risks to find these answers. I don’t know how I identify myself sexually. I am a man through and through. I love being a man. I love being masculine. More importantly I love me. I want to have someone else who loves me, intimately.


Yesterday, as I was waiting in a line I watched a couple interact. I watched as they exchanged words of affection. He pulled her close and kissed. I was jealous. His need for love and affection in a monogamous fulfilling relationship was being nurtured. Looking at my options as I have stated above, I don’t know that I will ever have something like that. It saddens, frustrates, and worries me to no end. It’s natural to feel the need to love and be loved. I just wonder if I will spend my entire life with this piece of my heart
missing.