Saturday, March 17, 2012

Some Random Things I'm Grateful For

I went to an Evergreen International meeting a few weeks ago. I've been going maybe once or twice a month for about four months now and I'm not crazy about the dynamic of the group. It's nice having that solidarity that comes with meeting with other people in the situation, but occasionally, the group can get a little caustic and antagonistic towards the struggle. It sometimes becomes a place to complain, which is fine, everyone needs that outlet, but I am trying to be more optimistic and the meetings sometimes get in the way of that.

That being said, I understand why lots of these men have reason to complain, reasons that I never had, and for that, I'm grateful.

I'm the youngest in the support group by far. The next youngest is about 10 years my senior, and the average age is probably about double my own.  Most of these men grew up in a completely different time than I did. I told a bit of my story at my second meeting and when I said that I'd come to terms with my homosexuality (they prefer "same-gender attraction") at age 16 or 17, most of the guys there were shocked. Many of them had lived in denial of their attractions until just a few years ago, even discounting sexual encounters with other men as childish larks for years. They lived these terrible, conflicting double lives until their worlds came crashing in as they somehow realized a part of them that they didn't know (or had denied) existed.

They lived in times when the Church advocated electroshock and extreme reorientation therapy for out gay men, times when the general populace of the Church (and indeed the world) was far less accepting of the attraction, much less the sin. They had to stifle these feelings because of a crippling fear of rejection, fear that I understand and experience, but to a vastly lesser magnitude. Some of them still suffer from this shame, refusing to disclose their attractions to spouses, church leaders, and others in their lives who might be able to help them succeed.

I understood who I was when I was 16. I have as many as 40 more years of self-awareness ahead of me than some of these men did. I was able to compartmentalize some of that guilt and fear and become as public as I am today (which, admittedly, is not very public).  I was able to come to grips with everything during some of my most formative years, a time when I was able to put this whole struggle in a realistic, but hopeful context of what I am to become. Unlike me, these men had 40 or 50 years of stifled repression bubble up and tear their worlds apart. I won't have to face that.

In that respect, I am so grateful to have been born in this more wicked, more accepting, more liberal generation. There is far less shame attached to sin than there has been, possibly ever in history. Sin is acceptable in the eyes of the world, but even within the strictures of the Church, it's still seen as something to work on, rather than something to lose hope in. We as a Mormon culture are realizing more and more that sin and weakness are universal. We've neutered and de-shamed much of what we struggle with and we have become a better people for it. We needn't suffer in silence or solitude anymore.

And even in my anonymity, I have an outlet! Through my blog, I have a wide network of different viewpoints I can investigate and refine and I have a place where I can distill those thoughts into something that I can understand and use, all within the safe and sheltered confines of my computer desk.  This technology thing, while certainly a thorn in my side sometimes, has been a great boon to me as well.

I grew up in a completely different world than any of my new friends and for that, I am incredibly grateful. I have an outlet for my feelings and even amid all my concerns about bigotedness and unkindness within the Church, at least I have more than a few well-informed, well-intentioned people championing me in the struggle.

If you need someone cheering in your corner, e-mail me. gay mormon pioneer at gmail dot com

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