Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Without Compulsory Means

I have written a lot, over the past few months, about discovery and recovering identity. I have reflected upon and analyzed what happened to me as a child due to abuse, what happened to me when I joined the Church and what happened to me when I got married. (I wrote about this here, here and here.)

I feel that each one of these events served to submerge my true identity, my real self. I have written, during the past several months, about trying to discover/recover that identity. But of course, this was largely a purely theoretical exercise: I could only come out of the closet so far; there was only so much I could do to explore my gay-ness and figure out what it means to me; my efforts were restricted to take down and unpack the boxes where I had long ago packed bits and pieces of my Self; and I was limited in my efforts to forge new and authentic connections with my children that were my own relationships, not shared or dominated by my wife or tainted by expectations from the Church or anyone or anything else.

These past few days, I have begun to put theory into practice, and I have sensed that these exercises I have just described are my tasks for the weeks and months ahead. 

I started the process of forging new relationships with my children on Saturday, the day after I moved out. I took the younger children to the zoo on Saturday afternoon, then took my teenage daughter out for dinner and a movie that evening. I also brought each of these children over to my new place to see where I live and to meet my housemate. Then, on Sunday morning, I took my teenage boys to Music and the Spoken Word (for a school assignment), then bought them donuts and took them over to my new place. My housemate is great with kids and did me a great service in engaging with all my children, but particularly my boys. They are now looking forward to coming over in a few weeks for an overnight, which is HUGE for me.

Then, last night, I took my oldest son out for Chinese food and a movie at the dollar theatre. Before doing so, we went over to my place, and my housemate again was great as he engaged my son in conversation. 

These are just first steps, but I am laying a new foundation that I feel good about.

As to venturing further out of the closet and figuring out what it means to me to be gay, I felt some disorientation over the weekend which surprised me and temporarily concerned me. Upon reflection and after discussing this phenomenon with a good friend, I realized that it’s ok to feel disoriented and confused, as well as other things. Like I said earlier, I’ve been pretty much limited to theory for the past few months; now, however, I’m starting to figure out how all of the theory works out in practice.

The same applies to other aspects of my identity. There were times during these past few days when I asked myself, “Who the hell am I?”  No one answered. Duh. Which made me realize that a new phase of my journey has begun which, although a bit scary, offers the promise of rich rewards.

As I contemplated these things over the past few days, a realization and a resolve grew in me: For the first time in my life, I am not simply responding to demands of situations and others’ expectations. For the first time in my life, I am not willing to simply submerge who I am in order to comply with the others’ perceived or actual wishes and demands; for the first time in my life, I am not trying to force myself to do and be.

I am done trying to force life. I am done trying to force myself to be someone I’m not, to act like someone I’m not, to perceive myself as someone I’m not. I’m also done trying to force myself to recover what was lost, to force better relationships with my children and to be someone else’s idea of what “gay” is. I have decided to let go and let life come to me, which I believe it will, that it will “without compulsory means flow unto me,” hopefully forever and ever – or least for the rest of my mortal life.

Course, all this is theory.  The rub is that I have to actually put it into practice.


  1. I know that I have said it several times, but I really appreciate your honesty, and your willingness to be so transparent. Much of what you are now experiencing, I went through a long time ago. But then there are other moments you speak of, that come rushing back like it was yesterday.

    I watched the movie, "Prayers for Bobby" the other night. I thought that i had worked through all of my emotions connected to coming out, my faith and my relationship to my family. Boy, was I wrong! The biggest, and most hurtful realization though was remembering the things that my mom said to me when I told her I was gay. Many of the things the mother in this movie said.

    But God used that movie to tell me again that I am okay. He does love me, right where I am, as I am, and that life...the good and the bad has come to me...and will be what I make of it. Thanks again Pilgrim. I'm glad we are friends!

  2. Q: What's the difference between theory and practice?

    A: In theory, none.

    :- )

    It sounds as if you're doing well. These are huge life changes. I'm impressed by your courage and resolve.

  3. "As I contemplated these things over the past few days, a realization and a resolve grew in me: For the first time in my life, I am not simply responding to demands of situations and others’ expectations. For the first time in my life, I am not willing to simply submerge who I am in order to comply with the others’ perceived or actual wishes and demands; for the first time in my life, I am not trying to force myself to do and be."

    That's bold. I do that a little, but much more of the time I simply respond to demands and expectations. I guess the reason/motive is largely fear.

    Kudos for your courage- I hope the authenticity experiment is net positive for you.

  4. Referring to the quote Brad has highlighted, I remember that feeling very well. It was an awesome realization in my life. I realized that I could be my own person and no longer needed/wanted the world's approval.

    Part of my closeted self was to be very reserved and avoid ANYTHING that may have given anyone a chance to see the "devil" inside me. I avoided sports as I couldn't face someone possibly calling me a girl or sissy....or, heaven forbid, GAY. I stayed to the safety of things I knew well and didn't venture out. How sad.

    I had the realization you have had. I took it as a personal challenge to say "Yes" to everything I could. My knee-jerk reaction had always been to shy away and say no to anything unfamiliar. I decided to become a "yes" man. I decided to meet people I would never have talked to, I went out with friends to places I had never gone, I tried activities and things I would never have thought. I said "Yes" to anything that wasn't obviously dangerous.

    I was no longer going to sit on the sidelines and watch everyone else experience life while wishing I "could be like them."

    Realizing that you know have a space in your soul to be yourself and find yourself can be scary, but it can also be more rewarding and self-fulfilling than you can possibly imagine. Maybe things will sometimes seem "selfish," but they aren't. Take time for yourself. Be an authentic "you" for once. I learned very quickly that the LDS mantra of putting everything else in front of personal needs. We are taught that you must be "selfless." I have found that to not only be incorrect, but unhealthy. Taking time for yourself and being true to yourself amplifies the person you are for others around. Being selfish is truly the best way to be selfless.

    Thank you for reminding me of these feelings. Old habits die hard and I realize that there are parts of my life that have reverted to "no" and "I can'ts." I'm evaluating and resolving to be more of a "Yes" man again. Best wishes on your journey and thank you for taking the time to share it with us.

  5. @Kevin - I always appreciate validation! Thanks. I've got to see Prayers for Bobby!

    @MoHoHawaii - Argh, argh. Thanks for your vote of confidence!

    @Brad - Thanks for your comments. We are all constrained to one degree or another by circumstances; what's important is how we address those circumstances. I'm not conducting an experiment, by the way, :), because that term implies a return to "existing" circumstances after the experiment. There will be no return for me.

    @Ben - I can well relate to everything you wrote. Thanks for your comments and your advice. As I wrote to someone today, to be the best father I can be, I have to first be the best person I can be, i.e., be true to myself and validate myself.

  6. Sincere question for you here.

    You have a teenage daughter, so I'm guessing you have to be at least mid-40s correct? Average life expectancy of the American male is 76 years. So, 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'm not your bishop so I don't think what you do directly affects me very much, but I'm just curious about your thoughts on whether those 20 years are worth what you're giving up.

  7. I think with regards to what is "left": none of us know. What counts is not the years but the life in the years, and Invictus, what better life to have in your years than being who you truly are!

  8. Anonymous--

    I know this isn't my blog, but I can't help but respond to your comment. I've been totally out for one year and it has been without question the best and happiest year of my life--by any measure.

    I believe that when the B of M says that men are that they might have joy, it is speaking truth, both for this life as well as for eternity.

    As a gay man once married to a wonderful straight woman, raising tremendous children, serving in a variety of Church leadership positions, I never understood what joy was. I had happy moments, but in my trial never felt the joy that the Gospel is intended to bring.

    Since divorcing and actually being true to who I am, I have amazingly experienced a fullness of joy EVERY day--joy so profound it often causes me to tremble with gratitude for a Father who loves me for who and what I am and is willing to share His Spirit in a profound and immutable way.

    If wickedness never was happiness, I have to take the Lord at his word. That means that if what I am doing is wicked, I shouldn't be happy. At the same time, if marriage to a woman brought such unhappiness, would it be pleasing in the sight of God?

    Anonymous, it is so easy to live in a world constructed of cultural norms that is in reality antithetical to the teachings of the Gospel of Christ. Because it is easy, too many members of the Church choose to live in such a world of blacks and whites rather than a world of sunshine and rainbows as Heavenly Father intended.

    I'm grateful that God led me into a world of color and with it, a world of boundless joy. I hope someday in this life or the next, you are able to find this world as well.