For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.
- Mosiah 3:19
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
I read recently that the closet, while denounced by many gay activists as a symbol of shame and of submission to oppression, was and is (for many) still a space of freedom, a way of resisting, of not submitting to normative injunctions. As I've metabolized this idea, I could not help but consider the presupposition to this pronouncement: that one has already accepted who they are, and therefore consciously choose the closet as a form of resistance.
As I reflected on my own experience, my closet was not a form of resistance, rather it was a coping mechanism; a way to continue to deny who I am; a way for me to further the self-hatred. In short it was a mechanism that would allow me to fit into the heterosexual order of the Church. Yet, denying who I was, was a form of control an act of defiance of the Heavenly order. Denial of my identity (sexual and otherwise) was my form of resisting the power of God. I wanted to control how I viewed myself, I wanted to control how I fit into the institution of God's kingdom on earth. I wanted to dictate the type of blessings I received for routinized obedience. This stemmed from my denial of who I was and am.
Yet, instances of the human condition voiced over the pulpit during conference about the homosexual situation did not help my acceptance. A latest example of such is Elder Grow's talk, in that talk he refers to his brother leaving his wife and two children to choose to live a hedonistic lifestyle. Hedonism is a notion that pleasure is the only good in life. Pleasure! (I may consider that at a different time). But the fact that he used hedonistic to describe his brother (who was in a relationship with another man) is a constant reminder to me of how much I want to continue to deny who I am. Is this how General Authorities and stake and ward leaders view me? Do they see me as a hedonist? Someone who decides one day to "set aside" covenants to pursue pleasure? Am I a hedonist? Certainly what I did was not pleasurable, by any stretch of the imagination - it was filled with pain, intense pain - the opposite of pleasure. But moments such as these impel me to retreat further into the recesses of the closet - taking on further forms of denial - attempting to ensure that masculine parts of my character are emphasized. Though most people have said "I get no sense that you're attracted to the same sex...others it's clear, but not with you." Yet, the fact that I'm having those conversations is evidence that I am still in denial of who I am, unwilling to accept that God created me and allowed me this condition for a reason. Why should I deny that gift?
So my closet has been one of denial for so long. Recently, I acquired a new sponsor for my sex addiction: he is gay and atheist (he did encourage me to pray!) - as a result I have now been sober from all sexual acting out for 67 days. I shared with him that part of my addiction has been fueled by the unresolved tensions between accepting who I am and where I fit into the grand schema of God's plan. With his help, for the first time, I am thinking about what it means to be gay, beyond the superficial and naive understanding that sex is the only defining feature of being gay. This has been a tremendous help. He insists (as does my Mormon therapist) that I need to accept me and love me. Two things I find hard to do.
As I've been praying, fasting, and studying the scriptures in an effort to accept me, I realized that I don't even know what I am accepting. This is where my gay sponsor has been tremendously helpful: he helped me to see that being gay is more than simply a desire to have sex with men. I asked if wanting to have sex with men is what I am accepting, but that seems a moot issue: I've already accepted that. But what is about wanting to have sex with men that I am accepting, this for me seems to be the bigger issue. And for this I am uncertain. This line of questioning led to me ask, before I accept myself, I need to know what I am accepting. This led me to ponder the larger cosmic reality, related to my existence: who am I?
I can write easily and say I am son of God, a child of God; but I do not understand the power of that declaration. I do not feel the power of that identity. What does that mean in relation to the sexual identity in mortality? I am not sure. But that same friend, as I lamented told me, it does not matter that you don't know who you are as long as you are progressing.
I am coming to realize that coming out is not a process of public declaration, but rather a powerful process of self-acceptance and love. I must come out to myself, and love what comes out. To do, I must be able to see myself as God sees me. To do that I must know the character of God. This line of reasoning seems consistent with the Prophet Joseph Smith's truthful assertion: "If men do not comprehend the character of God, they do not comprehend themselves."
Thus in coming to accept me, I may with Alma, be "content with the things which the Lord hath alloted unto me." And perhaps by so doing, enable my faith and bolster my desire to remain faithful to the end.