Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Gayness, The Owner’s Manual

It’s a dangerous world for gay kids, heck, for many gay adults. It seems the smallest of choices made by them or those around them can be the insignificant genesis of some major trauma that will rip through many lives, years into the future.

I’ve had a number of opportunities to get in the way of this problem. The first time I failed miserably. Other times I’ve been absolutely ignored. But there are times when I was told I helped, enough times to keep me obsessed with trying, even if it had nothing to do with my input. To this end, this is what I'd humbly ;-) advise (But is it right?):

1. Are you attracted primarily to men (I’ll write this for gay men; it’s what I best know)?
If yes:

Stop, don’t do anything, or make any big decisions without thinking it through carefully. Slowly, move on to 2.

If no:
Easy. Your life is perfect ;-).

2. Do you (not your parents, or your church, or your friends) think homosexual attraction is immoral?
If yes:

Keep yourself from any sexual activity with a man, and find counsel. I’d be glad to give you my take on morality (a future post) or point you to some organizations, if you like, but you’ll need professional help.

If no:
Go to 3.

3. Do you think sexual activity with a man is immoral?
If yes:

Keep yourself from any sexual activity with a man, and seek counsel that matches your morals. Again, I’d be glad to give you my take on morality, if you like, but you do need help. On to 4.

Now some may object and say all gays should follow their nature regardless, but here’s where I worry: while gays can certainly have sex with shame, and many do, they can’t build a healthy relationship with shame. They’re more likely to get themselves or others hurt or worse by treating sex as an embarrassing secret addiction to sin, than a healthy part of their nature. Simply, they first need to resolve the morality.

They’ll also need their other morals, and don’t survive well once they feel they’ve compromised them. I’ve seen too many gay kids treat their morality as a package and a black and white deal, as that's what their faith teaches. Once they “sin” by following their innate attraction to a man--attraction being such an important part of most humans that it can seem well worth it--why not drugs? Why not promiscuity? Why not cheat? They already think they’re “damned” and many are pushed outside their family and culture anyway.

If no:
Go to 4.

4. It’s very important. Are you sure about the above?
If yes:

You’re certain your answers are not what you want to be true, and not what you’re parroting from your culture or fearing in punishment. Your answer is either what’s right (at least for you), or not wrong. With as much certainty as you could reasonably gather, you’re not going to start a relationship with a man or a woman and later decide you’ve made a moral mistake. Yes? Go to 5.

If no:
Go back to 2.

5. Do you want to try to change your orientation?
If yes:

You should research your odds dispassionately and find a therapist that specializes in the area. I’ve known too many hopeful “ex-gays” who’ve inadvertently used the ex-gay groups as a dating service. It’s not that some can’t end up happy in gay relationships with families and so on--I know they can--but they do end up gay, and I believe the average to be dangerously gay and degrade themselves for their "transgressions". If you’re sure about 4, and honestly don’t want to be tempted, it seems a lone therapist is best (still, I’ll admit I’m not an expert here and would welcome a counter opinion).

Why, again, would a gay man want gay men to try to change? I don't really; from what I've seen, I think it can be psychologically dangerous, but if they’ve not reconciled with being gay, they’ll do a miserable job of being actively gay. It can be equally or even more dangerous, and no one wants a larger tragedy. Instead, I’d rather have healthier gays in the gay community. So, try to change if you want, and, if you make it, great. If not, you can always accept your attraction to men, as plainly as women do, and be a healthier gay man for knowing why you're not trying to change. For now, go back to 1 and hope it’s not an infinite loop (anyone also program here? :-)).

If no:
Fine, but I’m not done preaching yet, on to 6.

6. Are you a minor?
If yes:

Keep from sexual activity. It may seem unreasonable and moralizing and cliché (True love waits and all), but you’ll likely fair best without sex, and it will be much more useful and important to you when you’re an adult. Date, make out, be “out and proud”, but, for your own health and happiness it’s best to keep as chaste as puritans in your youth (maybe even for the first year or so of coming out for adults ;-)). On to 7.

If no:
On to 7.

7. Would your family be hostile towards you for being actively gay?
If yes:

Make sure you’re right (I was not). Feel them out. If you are sure they’d harm you, you have my deep sympathies. It’s a case-by-case basis then, and I’m unsure what to advise. But if the harm is likely to be great, you may have to hold off telling them for a while.

Still, you can’t give up. Even if you’re a minor, you’ll be out and living your own life before you know it, and there is a good life ahead of you if you work at it. But don’t go it alone either. I’d find outside counsel (platonic and more than online) that matched your morals: a close friend, a gay youth group, a minister, whatever complements your answers to 1-6.

If no:
After you get over you’re stunned state of blissful gratitude ;-), on to 8.

8. Are you in love, and loved (not deep abiding Love love, yet, but strongly attracted to a particular person you know enough to respect, love)?
If yes
Take it slow. Make sure you’re compatible; don’t let passion and infatuation control you, as it does so many young adults, gay and straight. If you hope to build something lasting--a family, a home--you’ll need to put time and effort into building something lasting. If not, then we don’t see eye to eye on much here anyway and you probably stopped listening to me paragraphs ago :-). Go to 9.

If no:
Try not to feel rushed or discouraged at the odds; it’ll happen. Don’t go looking in the easy (wrong) places (bars, and so on). I know a number of great single gay men; they are out there. I think college is a good place to look (as any BYU gal would tell ya ;-)), or GLBT political and social groups, community centers, and so on. When you do look, look for someone who’s not made too many missteps along the way. It may be hard to become infatuated and then reject it when you get more information, but you don’t, say, want to date a guy who thinks homosexuality is immoral and would have sex with you, and you can’t morally date a guy with an oblivious wife and kids at home. You’ll need someone at least near your point, or lower, on the scale of gay trauma. Lather, rinse, repeat #8.

9. Do you want to have sex with someone (in particular :-)) ?
If yes:

Let months pass. Wait. Make sure this is the person you want. Once you feel 100% completely ready, wait another month :-]. In fact, one regret I have is that, while we did wait a long time, we didn’t wait until after our public vows. I’ve my excuses :-), but just keep in mind you may need to explain everything you do to your kids someday.

In the mean time, you should be able to comfortably ask you’re partner to be tested, along with you, for the whole set of STDs, if you’ve done the work needed in 8. I would do that, regardless. I know this seems contrary to my feelings with my physician, and maybe it is, but I recommend this for every couple, gay or straight. Also, it is different to be asked by a stranger after making the promises of marriage. R and I did that and we were both virgins. We did it for the idea of it. None of this “but we trust each other” stuff. That’s not the point; it's greatly symbolic. It’s an easy, loving gesture to your partner, and an expression of responsibility to the larger gay community for you to do it without pressure and make it commonplace. On to 10.

If no:
That’s fine too. I think gay sex can be something that scares many gay people at first. I know it worried me. You want to do something with him, but what, exactly? If you don’t want the stereotypical sort of gay sex, you’re not alone in the gay community. It's something we’ve never done, and, at this point we probably never will. We don’t look down on it, but neither of us wants it.

You’ll have to work out what you do want and I’m sure every couple is different, from near celibate to that which I couldn’t imagine. There are probably more gay couples in the world that are technically virgins than most would assume, and if that’s where you’re both most comfortable, fine. Nobody has ever hurt themselves or another by not having intercourse and just building a life with the partner to whom they’re attracted. But you should be at least near in agreement. On to 10.

10. You’re an adult gay man in a happy healthy relationship. You’re none of my business now ;-). Email me once you’re parents, and I’ll expect a good (good!) potluck dish at our monthly get-togethers as payment.

One additional concern: What little I know about drug and alcohol addiction comes from a handful of straight friends that have dealt with it. But I do know such addictions can be a big problem for gay kids and adults.

I’d certainly recommend against using them to sooth emotional trauma in the first place; it’ll help nothing in the long run. Getting psychiatric help for depression and getting on some better regulated pharmaceuticals seems like the best choice if the stress of being gay becomes overwhelming. Once hooked, I don’t know what’s best, other than the reflexive answer of a 12-step program.

I do believe though, if one is cautious with their sexual orientation, does not do what they feel is immoral, and so on, the stress that leads to drugs seeming like a good idea can be minimized. Not eliminated mind you; there are still the choices of others, choices for which you may have not control but feel a good deal of repercussion. I’d just hope the gay kid in that situation could keep his hope up. There is reason to hope.

Anyway, that’s my “manual” to avoiding gay tragedy. Clearly, it’d be a much larger tome, if we actually got a manual with our Gayness, but it’s a start ;-).

Anything need to be changed? Omissions, errors?

I’d love to see, for comparison, a gay LDS man married to a woman give their advice for gay youth, if any is interested. I know I greatly left that path off, as I don’t know much about those choices. But I’d expect it to be added on around my #5, and that there’d be pages of conditions and questions.


Beck said...

I'm perpetually stuck between 4 and 5. Though I DON'T want to change or even feel the NEED to change, I can't get passed the immorality thing...

I wish someone out there would write a "manual" for the gay mixed marriage fork in the road. I wish someone had done so 20 years ago!

Thanks for the posts...


Scot said...

"I'm perpetually stuck between 4 and 5. Though I DON'T want to change or even feel the NEED to change, I can't get passed the immorality thing..."

That is an important part, in my experience. Personally though, I’d think it best to be stuck than recklessly on the move, as too many gay men tend to.

"I wish someone out there would write a "manual" for the gay mixed marriage fork in the road."

I’d love to see what advice others around here would have. Again, I know I left that out (not my area of study :-)), and I’d expect that path to veer off around my 5.

If you don’t want to answer, I’d not expect it, but I’d love to know what kind of advice you’d give, Beck.

BTW, I do enjoy your blog and thank you for your posts as well.

el veneno said...

That was way good. Thanks for posting.

John Gustav-Wrathall said...

Wow, awesome.

How come my package arrived without the manual???

I fudged it, almost broke the damn thing, but called customer support (they were real helpful) and got back on track. Now things are running smoothly.

But wish I'd had the &^%$*@!! manual to begin with.

Scot said...

How come my package arrived without the manual???

Well, back in the day, customer support was, admittedly, subpar and we apologize for any inconvenience. In recent years we’ve restructured our management. I’m very glad you were able to figure out how to operate our fine product in a safe manner, and that the statute of limitations on our legal liability has expired. We appreciate your business.