A Second Confession
Okay, I've still been too busy lately to post here as often as I'd like. But today marks the one-year anniversary of this blog. And, as I said last month...I've decided to commemorate this one-year anniversary by, um, making another sort of confession.
This one's actually harder for me to admit to than being an atheist, even though logically I know it shouldn't be. But it's also something I've been keeping secret a lot longer. My atheism only dates back about a year and a quarter (I'd already rejected religion a few months before I started this blog). This, I've known about since I was twenty. And as hard as it is to admit to it, it's something I ought to come to terms with sooner or later, and I guess I may as well start by owning up to it here, where I can do so anonymously.
So here goes...
By which I don't mean that I've ever had any homosexual relations. (I said in my first post that I was still a virgin, and that hasn't changed--and that includes relations with either gender.) But I don't have to have actually done the deed to know which gender turns me on. As I said, I've known I was gay since I was twenty--and had I been brought up in a less restrictive environment, I would no doubt have realized it much sooner. (Once I did finally realize it, it seemed in retrospect to be blatantly obvious.) Ironically, I realized it while I was on my mission for the church, but as tempting as it might be to speculate that being around other young guys prone to lounge about the apartment in their underwear contributed to the realization, I'm pretty sure the timing was just a coincidence.
(That last sentence perhaps requires a little elaboration. Yes, the missionaries on my mission did tend to strip down to their underwear when in their apartment--though I don't know how common this was in other missions (I served in Spain, and, well, it could get hot there), or whether church leaders have since found out about the practice and put a stop to it. However, there are several reasons I really don't think this had anything to do with my realizing that I was gay. For one thing, when I say "underwear", I don't mean boxers or briefs; I'm referring to Mormon temple garments, which are one of the most unsightly and unflattering articles of clothing ever designed. So if anything the missionaries were considerably less alluring in their "underwear" than they were fully dressed...)
I should add, by the way, that I don't think my homosexuality has anything to do with my atheism. After all, I knew I was gay almost fifteen years before my "deconversion". But LDS church leaders in the last few decades have acknowledged that homosexuality may not be entirely a matter of choice, that people may have innate predispositions toward it due to genetic or other causes. They have encouraged members with these urges to suppress them, of course, but at least they don't deny that those tendencies exist. So while I considered myself a faithful member, I just decided not to act on--or indeed, not to tell anyone about--my homosexual inclinations. I managed to go on that way for a decade and a half, and I honestly don't think it was a contributing factor to my eventual rejection of the church; I'd long made my peace with the matter as far as that went, and had reconciled in my mind my tendencies with church teachings.
When I say that I'd decided, as a faithful Mormon, not to act on my homosexual tendencies, I don't mean to say that now that I've "deconverted" I'm planning to go out and start trying to pick up guys. My conditioning has stuck to the degree that I'm still very uncomfortable with that whole idea--I may know that I'm attracted to other men, but the idea of actually acting on that attraction still strikes me as distasteful, even though intellectually I know there's no good reason it should. So...I really have no idea even where I want to go from here, and when I say I ought to come to terms with my homosexuality, I'm not even sure myself what I mean by that. I was helped to come to terms with my atheism by interacting with other atheists both online and in person at the Center for Inquiry. But as for my homosexuality...well, while I guess it wouldn't be hard to meet other homosexuals if I wanted to, at this point I really don't want to. Not that I have anything against homosexuals (that would be rather silly, considering that I am one myself), but...I don't know. I have no interest in trying to assume a typical homosexual "lifestyle", whatever that is, or if such a thing even exists. I'm more or less content with things the way they are.
(Well...except that I really would like to have kids someday. But, uh, it doesn't seem like there's any simple way for that to happen...)
So why am I writing this, and why do I feel there's anything I need to "come to terms with" in the first place? Well, because, while I don't feel the need to go out and find dates, or anything like that...I am kind of uncomfortable with living a lie. (Well, not that I've explicitly told anyone I'm straight, but even so I'm sort of lying by omission...and there've been times I've had to word things very carefully to avoid giving myself away without actually saying an untruth.) But...I'm apprehensive of the consequences of coming out as homosexual. Even more so than those of coming out as an atheist.
Like I said, I know it shouldn't be that way; a number of surveys have shown that there's more prejudice against and distrust of atheists in today's society than there is of gays. But...that's not my personal experience. I've heard from people I know in the church a lot more hostility toward gays than toward atheists. Now, I know that the surveys are probably more reliable than my own personal anecdotal "evidence"--and, in fact, I've got a pretty good idea why I haven't heard as much negativity toward atheists as toward gays. It's because to a lot of people I know, atheists...don't really exist. Or at least, they're not a part of their everyday experience. They've heard of them, but they don't fully believe in them, or at least they haven't known any themselves (or at least known anyone they know to be an atheist.) On their mental maps of society, gays may comprise a distrusted foreign country, but the godless are acknowledged only by some words in some exotic and unexplored corner, stating in an ornate script, "HERE BE ATHEISTS". So if I've heard more invective against homosexuals than against atheists, it's probably because I've been around people who are more familiar with the former than with the latter--but it doesn't necessarily indicate that they feel any less negatively toward atheists. If anything, it makes sense that they'd think even worse of atheists, because of the unfamiliarity; there are enough gays around that they pretty much have to be acknowledged as people, if "sinful" ones, whereas as long as atheists remain abstract and semi-mythical they can be demonized completely.
(This could be taken, incidentally, as an argument for atheists in general to become more outspoken about their atheism. After all, if gays have won some measure of tolerance by becoming better known (certainly not full tolerance, but much more than they had a few decades ago), it seems likely that atheists would be able to throw off some of their opprobrium if they were simply more visible; if people simply associated atheism with people they knew, and not with some semi-mythical people that exist to them only as concepts. In particular, this could be construed as an argument that I ought to fess up to my atheism, and stop trying to keep it hidden from my family and friends. Yeah...I know I should, but I call myself the anonymous coward for a reason...)
Now, all of that I realize intellectually, but it's one thing to grasp it on that level and another to really internalize it. As much as I may know, on an intellectual level, that my coming out as an atheist is likely to have larger consequences for my personal relationships than my coming out as gay, it's hard to overcome the feeling, based on all the digs I've heard against gays, that it would be the other way around. Of course, given that I have no immediate plans to come out publicly in either capacity, for the moment at least it's a moot point. (This, however, is another reason I was kind of reluctant to bring this subject up even here on this blog. I do intend to someday make my atheism public, after all, though I don't yet know just when that's going to be. And when I do, I'd planned to own up to this blog as well. But now, of course, doing that would mean also admitting that I'm gay. Well...I guess it has to come out sometime anyway.)
I do have an uncle who's gay, but I'm not sure, on balance, whether that bodes well or ill for my family's reaction when they find out about my homosexuality. On the one hand, he's evidence that they can, at least, show some measure of tolerance; he's still invited to family gatherings, and everyone in the family still tries to keep in contact with him. But on the other hand, it's clear that he's thought of as, well, a sinner, and a bit of a pariah. To make matters worse, he has a history of certain psychological problems. Those issues are in no way related to his homosexuality...but they mean that homosexuality and mental disorders are now connected in my family's eyes.
The uncle in question is a graphic artist, and my mother is convinced that he was turned gay because he was forced to sleep with another artist in return for introduction to a particular artistic technique. (I said earlier that LDS church leaders have acknowledged that homosexuality may be innate, but that doesn't mean that all church members have gotten that message.) She insists that he wasn't always gay, that he had a crush on a certain girl when he was a boy. He denies that, and, his psychological history notwithstanding, I tend to agree with him that he probably knows how he felt as a boy better than my mother does. In fact, I have a possible guess as to how my mother's conviction of his childhood crush may have come about. When I was in my early teens, my mother would continually press me about which of the girls in the ward I might like. I hadn't yet realized at that time that I was gay, but I did know that I had no interest in any of those girls. Still, my mother kept badgering me about the matter until finally just to get her off my back I picked a girl pretty much at random to tell her I liked. I didn't know the girl in question, and had no better reason for the choice than that her mother happened to be my Sunday school teacher; I don't think I ever said a word to her in my life, or vice versa. But my mother insisted I had to be interested in some girl, so I gave her a name. (I did try to convince myself that I liked her, but to no avail.)
Anyway, now that I'm getting into acting, my mother has a new cause for concern; she's been warning me that the acting business is disproportionately full of people with sinful lifestyles, and to be careful to avoid what happened to my uncle. If she's worried that acting is somehow going to turn me gay, well, it's a bit late to be concerned about that, since I've already been gay for about fifteen years. (Well, okay, I've been gay all my life, really, but first realized it fifteen years ago.)
Looking back at earlier posts, though, apparently I have actually made some progress in coming to terms with this, even just over the last year. Remember my post about marriage, back in August? I alluded then to some "other serious factors...that have stood in the way" of my getting married, but that "I d[id]n't feel like going into" right then. This--my homosexuality--was what I was referring to. But reading that post now, I'm a little surprised to see that in that post I said I still did want to get married. I certainly wasn't referring to gay marriage; I think at the time I had some sort of fantasy that I'd find a woman who would still want to marry me after I confessed to her that I was gay (I wouldn't want a marriage based on a lie) and told her I wasn't attracted to her sexually, but could perhaps still love her in other ways. Even supposing I could find such a woman, why would I want to? Well, basically, I think, because I want kids. But that's not the way to go about it (not, like I said, that there really is a simple way of going about it); even in the extremely unlikely circumstance that a woman was willing to marry me despite my homosexuality, that wouldn't really be fair to her--and wouldn't, in the long term, be a good thing for me either. So I guess I've accepted since that post that I'll likely never marry--that, at least, I've come to terms with.
But again, despite the fact that atheists may be more distrusted than gays, it's my homosexuality that I'm more reluctant to talk about. I have told people (non-anonymously) that I'm an atheist--not just those I met at the CFI, but friends I'd known from before that as well. I haven't told anyone that I'm gay, even my oldest friends, and I really wouldn't feel comfortable doing so. A few months back, someone I'd met at the CFI invited me to a party, where I met for the first time his wife, who, as I found out, actually made a vocation of helping out gay Mormon youth. Now, if there's anyone I should have felt comfortable telling about my homosexuality, it's her--granted, I'm a decade and change past really being able to call myself a youth anymore, but other than that I'm in a situation she's helped many people deal with in the past. But even to her, I couldn't bring myself to say anything about my sexual orientation. Even here, anonymously, I feel a little queasy about bringing it up.
Although...in the end, this may not end up being entirely an anonymous confession after all. I have, after all, told some people at the CFI about this blog, which means that this entry may be read by some people I know face-to-face. I hadn't planned on that happening--in fact, I'd intended just the contrary--but maybe it's for the best in the long run. As much as it may trouble me to admit to being gay, as I said, it's something I do need to come to terms with sooner or later.
Eh. I don't know. I'm not really fishing for advice here (though that's not to say that it would offend me); mostly I felt it was about time I did admit to this, even if for the moment it's only (mostly) anonymously. Like I said, I don't like living a lie, and at the moment, between my atheism and my homosexuality, I'm living two of them. That's...not going to last indefinitely.