This is my fourth letter to Anonymous, who posted the following comment a few days ago with respect to a post on my blog (the gist of the comment being that that I should go back into the closet because 20 years of “sowing wild oats” was not worth giving up “exaltation”):
“Sincere question for you here … Assuming you're 45, and will live to be 76, you're approximately 60% of the way through your life. Up to this point, you've been a faithful member of the Church, paid your tithing, etc. So, you've only got 40% of life to go and if you can just keep on the path for that last stretch, you'll very likely receive exaltation and be together with your family, as the LDS Church teaches. On the other hand, if you choose to live a homosexual lifestyle, you've got, on average, 31 years (assuming you're 45) left. Keeping in mind that after 65 you're pretty much "old" (no offense intended) which brings the "wild oats" years down to roughly 20. Are those 20 years worth it … [i.e.,] worth what you're giving up?”
As I’ve written previously, this comment struck me as representing what is unfortunately common thinking among most members of the LDS Church with respect to being gay. So, I asked for readers of my blog to contribute their own responses to Anonymous’ comment, then last Friday, I commenced posting responses to Anonymous in the form of letters which address various premises and assumptions that are implicit in the comment.
"Anonymous" later posted a subsequent comment, identifying himself as Bryan. But because I believe his comments are representative of beliefs held by many anonymous Mormons, I will continue to address the letters to "Anonymous." Today’s letter addresses the implicit premise in Bryan’s original comment that the only reason I would come out at this point in my life is the ability to “live a homosexual lifestyle” and sow some wild oats for 20 years or so; or in other words, that homosexuality is all about sex.
As I’ve mentioned in my previous letters, your comment contains a number of implicit premises and assumptions which I think are common among Mormons. Moving beyond the foundational premises concerning “choice” and “attraction” that I discussed in my first three letters, I want to focus today on another premise and common belief, i.e., that being gay is all about sex.
The “Gay Lifestyle”
Let me first of all say that, though this may surprise you, many if not most gays find the term “gay lifestyle” extremely offensive, particularly when used by believing LDS or other conservative religious groups. This is partly because the use of the term implies that a homosexual orientation is not innate, but is rather a choice, such as choosing whether to live in a high-rise apartment building in Chicago or on a mountain-top in California, whether to get a job or be self-employed, whether to drive a car or ride a bicycle, or whether to work in a high-stress/high-paying job or a low-stress/lower paying job, etc.
Other reasons why gays dislike this term were aptly described in a guest post on my blog written by Utahhiker801:
“People often use the phrase "living the gay lifestyle" as a pejorative term for someone who has decided to leave the [LDS] church and embrace the fact that they're gay. My wife has even said that she is concerned that if we split that she doesn't want our children exposed to "the gay lifestyle." "First off," I asked her, "What kind of guys do you think I'm attracted to? Rainbow-flag waiving go-go boys?" I'm attracted to guys who are like me; clean-cut, down-to-earth, often returned-missionary types. Secondly, what does "gay lifestyle" even mean? There are enough closeted gay men who are married, that it should meet the definition of a gay lifestyle, but that's definitely not what those who use the term mean. Are they referring to guys who go drinking and clubbing every weekend and have sex with multiple partners? Sure, some choose to do that, and hopefully they grow towards more stability before their lives fall apart, but that's not everybody.
“A good friend of mine from college has been with his boyfriend for at least 8 years. Is that the "gay lifestyle"? Or maybe they're referring to having a well-manicured lawn and a propensity for spontaneously singing show tunes ... There is no more a "gay lifestyle" than there is a "straight lifestyle." People who use that term are being dismissive of those who are different from themselves. There is no "lifestyle"; there's just living. And if that means falling in love with another man, or getting my heart broken, or having a crush on a cute guy at the gym who I can barely bring myself to talk to, or waking up in the morning and just staring at the guy I love who is still sleeping next to me, or wanting a future where I don't have to be afraid of my feelings, then that's what I want. If someone chooses something different, I completely respect that. But don't dismiss those who disagree with you as choosing the "gay lifestyle." It is a simplistic, reductionist view that ignores the deep complexity involved.”
Premise: Being Gay Is All About Sex
Anonymous, you make it pretty clear in your comment that you believe the main reason I would want to come out at this point in my life is because the clock is ticking and I only have so many “good” years left in which to engage in “sowing my wild oats”, i.e., to engage in gay sex. I wonder if you have any idea of how offensive that comment is, on several levels.
First of all, the implication is clear that you believe the principal reason one would live as a gay man is so that he could engage in gay sex.
This belief, which I think it is probably safe to say is shared by many members of the LDS church, completely ignores the complex gamut of human emotions described by Judge Hanson (quoted in yesterday’s letter) as characterizing “an essential component of human identity and life.” This belief assumes that only heterosexual men and women can form, again in Judge Hanson’s words, “intimate personal relationships … to meet their deeply felt needs for love, attachment and intimacy.” This belief further assumes that only relationships between heterosexual men and women are capable of or characterized by bonds that (again in Judge Hanson’s words) “encompass not only sexual behavior, but also nonphysical affection between partners, shared goals and values, mutual support, and ongoing commitment.”
I again think it is probably a safe assumption that you, Anonymous, as well as most faithful members of the LDS Church, do not believe that a same-sex relationship is capable of or characterized by the qualities Judge Hanson accepted as fact. Such a belief then makes possible the rejection of any possibility of real love, attachment and intimacy in a same-sex relationship. With these higher, human qualities safely out of the way, gay relationships are thereafter reduced by such persons to their lowest, most animalistic form, i.e., of pure, unadulterated, decadent, “unnatural,” sex. And as further evidence of and in defense of such a position, such persons often embrace stereotypes conjured up by “flag-waving go-go boys,” as described above by UtahHiker.
Secondly, the implication is equally clear that you believe that the principal reason I would live as a gay man is to be able to engage in gay sex. In so doing, you reduce all the complex emotions, thought patterns and beliefs that make me who I am, to one thing: sex. As Wayne commented the other day in response to my original post concerning your comments: “You [Anonymous] talk about those 20 years of “wild oats”– like that’s what gay is all about. It is very possible that Invictus could meet someone in the next couple of years and then using your numbers have some 25+ years of sharing a life with someone with which he can connect to emotionally, spiritually, intimately, etc. A life filled with love and happiness.”
Wayne then went on to write, “I know a couple of men who met in their early 20’s and have been together for almost 40 years, building a life just the same way a man and a woman would who couldn’t have children. I have been in their home and experienced the feeling of a loving home.” Another commenter, Trey Adams, who lived in a heterosexual marriage for 33 years until he suffered almost a complete breakdown, wrote, “I am alive again for the first time in 33 years. I have a very loving, supportive, joy-filled relationship – with a man. To you that may appear repugnant. Our relationship is every much as beautiful as the best “love-at-home” Mormon family. We pray together, we go to church together; we live in harmony and mutual support. We feel God’s love and acceptance. LDS people think they have a monopoly on spirituality and on God’s blessings and acceptance. They generally have no idea concerning the breadth of God’s love” (a topic I will cover in a future letter).
All the foregoing being said, you and other members of the LDS Church need to understand that, though gay relationships are not just about sex, sex is nevertheless an element of gay relationships, just as it is in heterosexual relationships. As difficult as that may be for you or other heterosexuals to understand or accept, gay men are wired to find ultimate romantic, emotional, and sexual fulfillment with men, not women. This was beautifully described by UtahHiker801 in a comment he left on my original post, with which I will conclude. “For right or wrong,” he wrote, “several years ago, I met a guy who was in the same situation as I was, and we connected on such a deep level, it was incredible. It was the first time that I understood the romantic feelings that my wife had for me[!]. Because of our situations, this [“relationship”] didn’t last very long, but the main thought that hit me was, ‘How have I lived this long and never felt this way?’ … I’m embarrassed to admit this, but sometimes I flinch when my wife touches me … But when this friend would put his hand on my knee, I suddenly felt like all the stress in my life melted away … I hope that one day I can be with a guy with whom I can truly be myself. Whether I live another 31 years or just 5, I truly seek the joy that comes from being honest with myself and with God.”