Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Have Their Quiche and Eat It Too

Before we finished our home and got our own equipment, I used to go to the gym. It was not a gay gym by any means; it was in fact in the midst of a conservative suburb. Still, I’d sometimes see men being affectionate with each other in ways just barely inappropriate, but I was never hit on or anything, or, if I was, I never noticed; I’m kind of oblivious that way and R always has to point it out to me :-).

Eventually, we made friends with a couple of the trainers. They were straight men, but the stories they told about the gay goings on there…

Turns out there were certain hours of the night in which no reasonable man would dare enter the steam room, as it was a meeting place for closeted gay men, men with families. Our friends had walked in on some shocking and, if you could detach from the tragedy, amusing situations.

This notion was nothing new to me; I had been made aware of it early on in coming out in a dramatic way. It’s a sad fact of a segment of gay LDS life in Utah.

One of such men there, we came to learn, was actually somewhat high in the LDS church; trying not to give too much away, his face was out there as a member of the LDS faith. He was married with kids and had a long time boyfriend, who was also married and in the church. This was no closely guarded secret, though. They were amazingly open with their affection, and when the topic came up the man simply explained that his wife was “understanding”. I’d come to learn how “understanding” when I’d see the men together with their wives right there, and other odd interactions you’d simply not anticipate.

I’ll be out with it; this upset me. No, it upsets me.

Why? Am I a hopeless prude looking to be outraged :-)? Maybe, and, though a similar weapon is aimed at me daily, I’ve a hard time not wielding it here.

At first glance, it’s the sense of instability for the family, and a sense of lies and hypocrisy that sets me off. They can’t be telling the truth to their religious leaders, right? Being a member of the LDS church with your face out there as a member, isn’t this blatant duplicity? I mean, with their marriage vows, they knowingly promised to not do exactly what they’re doing in their marriage, right?

Or maybe it’s also my sour grapes, in part, and I’m just upset that I put such a high value on my home and fidelity and resent such a situation being more respected by my surrounding culture. I’ll not pretend to be above that :-).

In the end, I can sympathize with the predicament of these men and their wives, if not fully understand it, but I do think this is at least a dangerous way to handle it, no?

On the other hand, I admittedly do have to pause and wonder: don’t they all believe, for their faith, they’ve found a way, a sort of loophole that’s relatively stable, the best of the worst (to them)? To them, by how they expect the world to work, this is a better life than the one where they just keep with their wives or keep with each other in an open gay relationship. Something is at least precariously in balance, as I know this has been going on for years.

They have their temple marriage, and their innate attraction met, and all four of them, husbands and wives, believe they just have to wait it out, and it’ll soon be fixed. Sure, in the LDS model, there may be some extra torment for all of them, but they’ve all met the minimum requirements for the highest heaven, right? They won’t be trapped with Hitler and me in the Terrestrial :-). By LDS theology, they can all, eventually, become gods, right? (Not rhetorical :-). I’m really wondering, not wanting to rely on my memory LDS theology)

Eh, but this would be nothing new, really, and nothing particular to homosexuality or the LDS faith. The least moral man in any one's idea of heaven rarely seems to be more moral than the most moral man in its Hell, and I doubt that will change anytime soon. It’s just a bother, another bother :-).


-L- said...

As one who has consciously entertained the possibility of employing unconventional solutions to an awkward spiritual and sexual situation, I think I understand both where the men were coming from as well as what you are saying. Ultimately, whether they end up in the celestial kingdom and have all the blessing associated with that is a matter for God alone. But based on the most fundamental of church doctrines, I'd say fooling around with a man in a steam room is a blatant and serious sin that's not excused by being high in the church or even having a really really good reason to want to.

Frankly, it sounds to me like gay Mormons who are trying to practice their faith ought to stay away from steam rooms altogether. It's one of those things that can be rationalized to be just a normal guy thing, but sitting around for long periods of time with other naked guys in relative anonymity and dim privacy probably outweighs in spiritual risk any perceived health benefits. ;-)

Chris said...

Though I spent a lot of time wondering how I might be able to make my marriage work AND find some way to satisfy my need for male affection, something like this was never a serious consideration for me. If my marriage was going to work, I wanted to be fully committed to my wife. Ultimately, I wasn't able to make that commitment.

When I hear about arrangements such as this, my sympathy is with the women--who deserve so much more than this--even though I can identify with the struggle of the man. At some point, men in situations such as this have to get off the fence.

Beck said...

I'm jealous! I've been trying to figure out for some time how to "have my quiche and eat it too". How can I sign up?;-)

Like Chris, I've spent a lot of time contemplating the possibilities - particularly with frequent business trips. Seriously, I don't trust myself and commitments have been made and are honored... so I just wouldn't be caught dead in a steam room of any kind. As much as I would like the affection and attention, I just can't do it.

Obviously, they've figured out a way to do it with the agreement of their wives. It does happen. I have a close friend who first-hand told me he was the boy-toy for a successful SLC businessman when my friend was in his early twenties. The businessman's wife tolerated the situation. The husband was later called as mission president and both denied the whole affair ever took place. As to which heaven they'll inherit - only heaven knows.

-L- said...

It's back to the prodigal son problem... and it irritates me. It's hard to both believe in repentance and also believe that such premeditated and flagrant disrespect for chastity is all perfectly okay down the road for your mission president or whoever. But this, clearly, is my personal problem with how I view what is fair.

santorio said...

we shouldn't forget that many straight mormon men and women face the same situation, unable to find sexual fulfillment in their married or single lives, and similarly tempted to arrange any side arrangements.

i wonder about these women who tolerate their husbands' sexual misadventures. does their second-class status in the church play any role in this?

Scot said...

Ah Beck, careful what you wish for ;-).

For the record, putting the two couples aside, I think the steam room scenario should be out for anyone. I’d not go into a public steam room for fear of athlete’s foot alone, but I’d fear such a scenario would likely transmit much worse. Who knows what such men are bringing home to their wives? I feel similarly to Chris; it’s the women who get to me most.

I hope yes is not the answer to santorio’s question. Do straight LDS men ever put up with such for lesbian wives? Anyone know any such case? Eh, but that’s a significant straight man’s fantasy; so no mirror image.

As far as I can see, it’s all guesses as to how and why they put up with it, as I doubt a study on such a narrow topic is forthcoming :-). My impression is that they are thinking they just need to compromise and hold their family together a couple more decades…

…believe that such premeditated and flagrant disrespect for chastity is all perfectly okay down the road for your mission president or whoever.

I wonder, maybe they don’t believe it’s perfectly okay. Maybe they think they are sinners, who went as far as completing the necessary temple ceremonies, but left that one extra thing, mortal flaw to the mercy of God’s grace? Hard to say.