By Mister Curie
After several failed meet-up attempts with various different MoHos, I finally had my first MoHo meet-up when we went to NYC Pride last Sunday and were able to meet Horizon. I was surprisingly calm about this first meet-up, perhaps Horizon's post about his first meet-up helped reduce my anxiety, helping me realize how normal and ultimately unfounded such anxiety usually is. Horizon had staked out an amazing location along the parade route, right across from the Stonewall Inn and in the shade. While New York crowds are typically large, the parade crowd was particularly dense, and I had to send a comical series of texts to find him in the crowd, even though we were already located across from the Stonewall Inn, and eventually discovered we were less than 20 feet from him. We chatted throughout the parade and had a great time.
After the parade we battled the crowds as we attempted to make our way to the Pride festival. Once finding it, Madame Curie insisted we get dinner in an air-conditioned restaurant, which ended up being a great suggestion, as it helped us recover from the heat and got us away from the crowds where we could have a great conversation. It was nice to share our story with Horizon, hear the outlines of his story, and compare notes. I was struck with how "normal" my fellow MoHo is. I realize how naive that sounds and intellectually I had concluded that homosexuals are normal people, but it wasn't until this first meeting that I emotionally connected with the concept that homosexuals, and MoHos in particular, are normal. It reminded me of the Harvey Milk quote, "so that two, three, four, five hundred will step forward, so the gay doctors will come out, the gay lawyers, the gay judges, gay bankers, gay architects ... I hope that every professional gay will say 'enough', come forward and tell everybody, wear a sign, let the world know. Maybe that will help." Milk recognized that the stigma and misconceptions about gay people could most effectively be dispelled by knowing someone who is gay, because gays are normal, good people, but there is an emotional aspect to understanding which only comes from personal experience. I concluded that Horizon is a really good Mormon boy with all the hopes, dreams, fears, aspirations, and challenges associated with that, and he's attracted to men (almost a side note to an amazing and complex fellow human being).
After dinner, we explored the festival and then made our way back to the Metro. Shortly after we said our good-byes and left Horizons behind to make our trip back to Philadelphia, I reflected on our visit, and suddenly unanticipated waves of emotion, largely consisting of sadness and anger, washed over me. The visit had been so positive, it was hard to understand where such negative emotions were coming from, and I eventually concluded that the feelings were arising from deep within and while the visit was a catalyst for releasing those emotions, they reflected more about what was going on inside myself than about our actual meet-up. I think many of the feelings were released because of how much of myself I recognized in Horizon.
I have identified the following categories of where I think these feelings are coming from:
(1) Loss of faith - I perceived in Horizon an abundance of faith and an intact Mormon worldview, both of which I have lost. I think our meeting made me face how much I feel I have lost by losing faith in Mormonism. Of course, the frustrating thing with my intellectual apostasy is that the church is demonstrably not what I believed it to be in my child-like faith, and I cannot envision a route to go back to that faith. My loss of faith has parallels to the natural loss we feel in growing up and leaving our childhood behind. But there is a very real loss there, even if the church was not all I believed it to be. I think these feelings are ample evidence that I still have a lot to process with my loss of faith and that I am not yet okay with having lost my faith. I had been exploring my loss of faith when I got distracted by exploring my sexual orientation. While I think my current belief system is probably relatively stable, I have not yet explored adequately the emotional impact of losing Mormonism and how to integrate that loss of faith with my experiences within Mormonism.
(2) Brokeness/Evilness - I saw in Horizon a reflection of the person I believed myself to be, a good Mormon boy (who is also attracted to men) and suddenly I realized that good Mormon boy and homosexual didn't have to be contradictions. While I went most of my life unable to accept that I am gay and largely externalized those attractions by attributing them to Satan, I think deep down I internalized the message that if I was "struggling with these temptations" perhaps it was because I was intrinsically broken or evil inside. And while I usually told myself that I believed I was a wonderful person, deep down (almost beyond conscious thought) I wondered if the continuation of these "temptations" despite faithful church service and belief, was because I was broken and evil. I remember in Mission Prep, our teacher had challenged us to serve faithfully and then go to the temple at the conclusion of our mission and "return and report" on our mission. He promised us that if we were faithful missionaries, we would have an incomparable spiritual experience. I tried hard, despite my introverted nature, to serve the Lord with all my heart (however, I have previously documented some of my challenges on my mission with falling in love with companions and struggling with pornography and masturbation). The day after returning to America, and before being released as a missionary, I went to the Salt Lake Temple to "return and report." Nothing happened. It was one of the most singularly disappointing moments of my life and while I later tried to convince myself that I got my answer of acceptance of my mission while watching "The Testaments" with its HeartSell-induced "spirit", I think I really worried that God didn't accept my mission and that I was somehow evil and broken beyond what my best effort could overcome. Meeting Horizon exploded a deeply-held, internalized caricature of what it means to be homosexual (namely evil and choosing a lifestyle). In that moment there was renewed acceptance of myself, but there was also a burst of anger at the church for promoting such a psychologically-debilitating view of myself. As an acquaintance recently told me, "There is no such thing as people 'struggling with same sex attraction.' Ultimately that's nothing other than hate language expressed from a persecuting world-view. It's simply harmful and life-destroying."
(3) Family Reactions - Horizon spoke to us of his intention to "come out" to his parents this coming week. That brought up for me the fears of how my own family might react if I "come out" about my own homosexuality and my disaffection from the church. If being homosexual is bad in the church, I think being disaffected is even worse. Again, responses to both are typically filled with "hate language expressed from a persecuting world-view". It made me sad to think of the intolerance and fear being directed at a good, Mormon boy and how damaging that experience can be to a good, Mormon boy. It made me mad to think of the damage Mormonism can do to a person who doesn't fit in. It makes me sad, fearful, and angry to think that my family may react in similar ways to myself. And because they are fully immersed in that worldview, there is nothing I can do about that. Horizon, I sure hope your family reacts favorably to your "coming out" this week.
(4) Predicted loss - All of my fears about my family reaction also play into my predicted loss. I have always been considered the "perfect child" and in many ways have held a privileged place in my family (sorry to Grizz who reads this and my other siblings who don't). In fact, when I first came out to Grizz, he said, "It's funny, because you were always the perfect child." I joked that "I'm still the perfect child!" but I think there is a definite fear that my relationship with my family will change for the worse when they learn about my disaffection and homosexuality. Probably foolishly, much of my life has been spent trying to please others. Many of the things I have done have been with the intent of obtaining praise and fulfilling expectations that others had for me. I fear that by being true to myself I will lose a lot of what I have spent a lifetime cultivating.
Despite the confusing emotional response after the fact, I'm very grateful for having had the opportunity to initiate a friendship with Horizon who is such an amazing person, and I'm grateful for the opportunity I've had to sort through these emotions. I'm already looking forward to my next MoHo meet-up!