Friday, April 10, 2009

Playing for the wrong team

Consider for a moment the little boy playing soccer. He's wearing a blue jersey. He's smaller and less-sure on his feet than the other players but he has the ball. He dribbles it down field to the roar of the crowd. He kicks it in the goal and half of the crowd goes wild. The other half ignores him and looks at the ground in shame. The little ball player has scored for the wrong team.

I think I am that little ball player. I don't exactly feel at ease in the gay community. I don't embrace all of their ideals. I sometimes feel very small and unsure. But then I'm not altogether on the Mormon team either. I certainly don't agree with a lot of their ideals. Who's team am I on? When I try to win friends on either side, I'm losing on the other. One crowd roars while the opposite crowd ignores me and looks at the ground. So I keep running up and down the field, kicking goals for both teams and I am just EXHAUSTED!

Does anyone know what I'm talking about?

Sadly, I'm a kind of person who (stupidly) values acceptance of others. So I give it my best when others are watching. Sometimes when I'm among gays in the city, I have to be a certain kind of person to fit in. It's not a comfortable position for me to be in. But when I am with my conservative friends, str8 LDS friends included I have to bend my behavior and values in their direction to feel accepted.

Specifically, I have a personal example. Since all of my close friends moved up to the big city, leaving me in Provo (small Conservative college town) I sometimes find myself feeling lonesome. Lonesome is a particular feeling that I don't handle very well. I can do pain, anger, and malice, but lonesome. . . I loath that feeling. So I log on to web sites, I make phone calls and send texts. I start making plans just to avoid the quiet moments when I'm alone and feeling that terrible feeling of "lonesome." By the time I've gone on 3 dates in 2 days, made out with several pairs of lips and possibly pawned off my virtue to a couple of strangers, I've degraded myself a few levels. . . all to keep the space filled up so I avoid "lonesome." Where does that leave me? Let me tell you. . . "lonesome" catches up in those quiet moments, and its worse off after a weekend of trying to blend in with the gay crowd.

Sometimes all I want to do is talk and enjoy the sunset. I want to listen to good music and share stories about childhood. I want to go to a church meeting and then drive to the top of a mountain and consider the peaceful moments. I want to hold someone and be held in a healing embrace. I want to cry and not be embarrassed. I want to identify with a fellow-believer and share testimony. I want to hike to the top of the cliff with a friend and throw a paper airplane off it. I want to kiss someone and be kissed back and feel like I'm being uplifted and not down-graded. The guys I meet don't like these things. Most gay men drink. They want to skip to the make-out session. They don't want to pay for dinner, or let me pay. They're non-committal. They have no concept of God. They are bitter. They aren't accepting of their own sexuality. They care way too much about the way they look or the way I look. They don't like conversation (cuz guys don't talk- gee I shoulda thought of that before I decided to be gay right?). So pretty much everything I want or wish I could enjoy in the presence of a decent man, it just a fairytale.

I have made some friends recently that tell me I'm special. I am thinking of about 5 new friends who say that I'm different from most other guys. They pay me compliments that I really enjoy. They say they want to be friends. They buy me dinner and tell me I am always welcome in their home, because they trust me. All of these things are so appealing to me. Yet, all of these 5 new friends have eventually propositioned me for casual cuddling sessions and just plain sex. In some cases I have indulged them because I want to keep hearing the compliments and feeling the acceptance (is it real?). I am now in a sad state, because I have let down my guard enough that I am even defining myself by these less-than uplifting relationships. I'm a ho. That's my fault. I have been playing on their team. . . scoring for them because I like to feel included.

"Jeromy," I say to myself. "What's going on here? 1) Why are you so eager to please those who applaud your unique virtue and then degrade it? 2) What is it about you that makes you so appealing to these kinds of people? Finally, 3)what are you doing to make yourself available to such friends? Aren't there other avenues to explore, more wholesome and good?"

All very good questions

I realize this is very personal. I heard from some other friends recently that this is not a unique problem. We all play for the wrong team at some points in our lives, and we feel badly about it later. One friend of mine decided recently to erase his profiles on all gay dating websites, because he felt he was devalued by the gay community. So, I see I am not alone in this. I am honest enough with myself to make an example of my life, if it proves a point.

1) Why do I please those who applaud my virtue just to take advantage of it? Because I am bitter against the team I WANT to play for. I am angry at my rightful team. I feel I have been sold out, unwillingly and I feel already degraded and powerless. I speak of the LDS faith. I speak of its members and my friends who are of that faith. I have profound feelings of betrayal and abandonment. Accepting their love and praise sometimes feels like voluntarily drinking poison from their glass. I have a hard time with love and praise because it has too often been tainted with bigotry and hypocrisy. The alternative, is to cater to those on the other team, the only gay team, who accept me for what I am. Sadly their acceptance forces me to fit their mold and ideals, one that makes me feel dirty. Eventually I start acting like them. . .dirty.

2) What makes me appealing? I think its the talents and inner-light that I refined while once still in the fellowship of the gospel. I have faith. I'm optimistic. I value family. I play several instruments. I write fiction, poetry and music. I am constantly striving for my better self. I still pray. I have try to lift others up and encourage love and happiness. I learned all of these things from a great example. . . my father and mother. . and from a church which teaches faith on Christ. All of this is appealing to others who don't have the same upbringing. It fascinates them that one of their own could be accepting of this down-trodden state of homosexuality and yet still maintain all the positive parts that the LDS faith has afforded. (geeze jer- no wonder you're feeling bad. Whose team are you on? Do you even know?)

3) What am I doing to make myself available to those who like me, but don't value the things I do? Good question. I work all day long in a very conservative office where every single co-worker is LDS. I come home and turn on my computer and immediately log on to 5 different dating webpages while I cook dinner. I do this because I guess i am desperate (no kidding Sherlock) for friends who might possibly understand me. Over and over again, I think I've met someone who knows how I feel, and eventually I realize they're just like everyone else. They don't really get me. No-one does.

k guys. . I'm feeling a little like poo here.

I am playing for the wrong team, but the right one is so darn mean. You tell me, what is a guy supposed to do?

(Dang Jer- you sure know how to bring us down. Pick a brighter topic next time, mkay?)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

"I did What?" a play in One Act

"A conversation with myself"

Jeromy: I did WHAT!?!?!?

JEROMY: I went to a Matis Family Fireside. (A group designed to provide a loving environment where gay lds men can support each other in striving to maintain temple-worthy lives. It was started by Fred and Marilyn Matis, whose son killed himself on the steps of a stake center in Los Altos, California).

Jeromy: But I thought I hated stuff like that. I’ve accepted my sexuality and I’m fine with it. I don’t want to change it. Why would I go to a Matis Family Fireside?

JEROMY: I know it seems out of character for me. And yes I’m a little surprised, myself. I guess I have many reasons for going.

Jeromy: I’ve been to those meetings before. They’re kind of preachy aren’t they? I thought only married gay men, insecure, unstable and undecided gay men go there. They teach celibacy. The Matiss voted YES to prop 22 and YES to Prop 8. Doesn’t that bother me?

JEROMY: I am keeping a positive attitude, and trying to walk on higher ground here. Yes I expected to meet a variety of ideals there. But I didn’t go for political reasons.

Jeromy: Why did I go, Jer?

JEROMY: Because I am sad and angry (sangry?). I am lonely. I have lost a spiritual connection with my savior. I have lost the direction I once had. I feel the bitterness creeping into my soul, that I have detested in others and I want it out of me. The only way I have ever known to root out bitterness is with the purging power of the holy spirit. The best way to feel the spirit is to testify of true doctrine. Last night at the Matis Fireside, there was indeed true doctrine taught, and I did feel the spirit. Sister Camille spoke brilliantly. She was funny and entertaining but also very personable and poignant.

Jeromy: Do I feel satisfied or healed?

JEROMY: A little. Does one session in a tanning booth make me HOT?

jeromy: No. It takes many layers with many isolated visits.

JEROMY: That’s my answer then. I need many good doses of the spirit to peel away the hardened part of my heart before I feel good again, or satisfied.

Jeromy: Why else did I go?

JEROMY:Because I have need for humility before the Lord. And believe me Jer, sitting in a meeting (as a willing patron) that I once looked down upon was incredibly humbling. I felt so out of place.

Jeromy: Why did I feel so out of place?

JEROMY: Because I am the founder of a supportive fraternity for openly gay men. I encourage acceptance of homosexuality- the exact opposite ideology to the Matis family.

Jeromy: Then why in the world did I go?

JEROMY: I know right? It seems to be so contradictory. But I went to feel the spirit. I went to affirm my place in God’s plan. I went to combat the hatred in my heart for Mormons who hate me, as a gay man (because you know they exist in plentiful supply). I don’t want to hate. I want to understand, and promote an open dialogue. I feel I have a legitimate claim on Christ’s atonement. I feel I am able to be a whole person both as an open gay male and a latter-day saint (even if only in faith and not practice).

Jeromy: Then Jeromy, if I feel I have claim on all of these blessings, why did I feel so out of place and isolated in a meeting that speaks both to gays and Mormons at the same time?

JEROMY: Because there were many there who obviously were opposed to having me in their midst. I didn’t know what (or who) to expect, but I DID feel purposefully judged. I was introduced to several really nice guys. I was also introduced to a group of guys who I did not know, but who obviously knew me and felt I was not worthy to be in their presence. The sideways glances, fingers pointing (yes they pointed at me for real) and the whispering one to another while staring me down let me know that I was an outsider. I felt condemned. I think its because I've been around the block, and they knew it? Am I paranoid?

Jeromy: Yes, I think. You sound paranoid. Besides feeling the spirit did I get anything else good out of this fireside?

JEROMY: Yes, I made some very good friends and gained a better understanding of gay men in the gospel. I met several married men whose wives accompanied them to the meeting. I met some gay married men whose wives were completely supportive of their sexuality, within the bonds of fidelity of course. I also met some very kind souls who were happy, successful and celibate. I never knew or believed that was possible. But it seems to work for them.

Jeromy: Do I think they are deluded or suppressed?

JEROMY: I have no idea. Maybe, maybe not. But, from a psychological perspective it doesn’t matter. They are happy now. It isn’t my business to say to them “You THINK you can be celibate forever, but you’re just naive.” How dare I say that. They seem to be happy. I don't know why it works for them and not for me. No need to dwell on differences like that.

Jeromy: Stuart matis was celibate until he died. What are my thoughts on him?

JEROMY: Honestly, I have to ask this question, is Stuart Matis in a better place for having never acted on his homosexual feelings? I don’t doubt it.

Jeromy: But Jer- am I in a worse-off place than Stuart Matis for being sexually active with men? I had a partner for 3 years and am still inclined to date once in a while. I haven't ruled out the possibility of sex.

JEROMY: I honestly don’t know. Stuart Matis killed himself, a deplorable sin. Nothing frustrates God’s plan for salvation more than to deliberately cut a life short. I dare say, while homosexuality frustrates God’s eternal plan of salvation to a fundamental degree, suicide does more than frustrate it, it STOPS it dead. (I didn't intend the pun, but it works) Plus, maybe Stuart Matis would have acted on his sexual impulses if he lived long enough to come to a greater understanding of his sexuality. I don’t know. I’ll never know because he died. The grading scale is completely different. And by the way Jer- don’t compare us to Stuart Matis or anyone else on this matter. It’s unhealthy.

Jeromy: What other kinds of people did I meet there?

JEROMY: I was thoroughly surprised by the variety of people I met there. I was greeted by a very kind soul who was older (a grandfather). He talked to me for quite a long time and shared a very nice conversation with me. He was so welcoming. I also met several other bloggers who were so nice. I had no idea there was such an underground blogging brotherhood. They know and respect one-another. I want to be "IN" with this group so badly. They’re all great. I met lots of guys who were in full fellowship in the church and want to keep it that way. I met several guys who were simply cruising for dates or hook-ups. (that surprised me) Strangely I felt turned off by them because I came for spiritual enlightenment only. The “meat market” feel was uncomfortable and out of place. I’d expect to be ogled at the gym in Salt Lake, but not after a spiritual meeting followed by a prayer and an amen. I also saw several guys who were friends of the notorious “Mike Cramer” in SLC. Almost everyone there was seriously good looking in a very clean-cut kind of way. I was thrown off my game a little bit because part of me was startled by the physical beauty of all of them, but I knew I was thre for a spiritual purpose and I didn't let the gorgeousness detract from that purpose. Maybe, having the spirit makes you hot? Hmmm, I should go more often.

Jeromy: oh Jer- don’t leave out the juicy dirt. Stop saving face. Tell them what they want to hear. I know what I’m talking about. I’m proud of it in a twisted kind of way and I know it.

JEROMY: ok, ok. . although it felt strangely inappropriate I did get a phone number.

Jeromy: I KNEW IT!!!

JEROMY: for a HAAAIIIIIRRR appointment! He’s a stylist and offered to give me the feaux-hawk I wanted.

Jeromy: whatever! (rolls eyes). I know he held me a little too long when he hugged me goodbye and said I’m sexy.

JEROMY: k, fine. . . . I couldn’t resist.

Jeromy: Am I going to mention CRAZY JERRY? Cuz I know our readers want to hear about it.

JEROMY: OMG you guys!!! Crazy Jerry was there. He followed me around and talked to me several times. He said “I went to the Mayan (restaurant) the other day and I thought of you.”

Jeromy: and what did I say? I know I hate him!

JEROMY: I said, “Funny, I remember that time at the Mayan too, and I haven’t been back since.” And I walked away. But that wasn’t the last. Apparently some other guys noticed he was present as well, and they have had similar negative interactions with him. I felt totally vindicated.

Jeromy: What else did Jerry do or say? Give details.

JEROMY: I was standing alone (which happened a few times cuz I was so awkward in the new group) and he came up to me, uncomfortably close, and said “You know I don’t hate you.” So many things went through my mind. I wanted to blast him. But, as many may know about Crazy Jerry, he thrives on contention. That is the ONLY reason he still tries to get my goat. He gets a demonic thrill out of watching people squirm. So, I maintained my composure and said “Okay.” And turned and walked away briskly, hoping to make a point without saying anything more.

Jeromy: Did he have any cronies with him this time?

JEROMY: Well, he was chummy with a few people, and some guys did sit next to him. But he didn’t seem to have his favorite twinky Bishop’s son with him this time. He WAS dressed in all black (perhaps he thinks it’s slimming?) which added to the demonic affect.

Jeromy: What did I take away from the meeting. . .final thoughts.

JEROMY: I still need a spiritual awakening. I’m working on it. I want to go to the Matis Firesides again. Maybe next month. I want to go to OTHER firesides as well, maybe a Motab concert?. Perhaps I will even go to a real church meeting. I like the feelings that I felt while the speaker was speaking. I like feeling close to Christ and the Father of all. I feel Brother and Sister Matis provide a wonderful service for those who want to be openly gay, but also feel the spirit. I have so much soul searching to do. I’m a work in progress. I wish I could talk about these things more openly with my friends. I’m a bit embarrassed to say “hey guys, can we talk about the spirit?” . . lol. Nevertheless, I’ll deal with this longing in my own way, quietly and dignified. You lucky readers get to peak into my soul and see what’s cookin.