Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Joseph: The Month of August

Ugh!! I am typically not an outwardly emotional person. It's driving me up the wall being bonkers over a guy like I am.

I can't tell you how much it would mean to me to have someone I could talk with openly about this. I have made it a bit of a quest to find such people, but unfortunately with zero success.

In a number of ways, I consider Joseph my best friend. He may not necessarily reciprocate that sentiment, but that's his prerogative. I am quite certain that if he was aware of the extent to which I am stricken for him, he would give me a wide breadth. I never intend to divulge that to him by the looks of things, but at one point, I do want him to understand the basic gist of my feelings, and that, notwithstanding those, I see him as a friend toward whom I have no ulterior motives (even though the irrational side of my heart longs so to harbor dark, underlying feelings), and that I intend to be the most loyal of friends for only the noblest of reasons.

But he can be elusive. I wonder at the moment I write this if he is struggling with a few of the intimate things he has willingly confided in me. Or perhaps in something deeper still.

Just a few weeks ago, I was in a really dark place, frustrated with the roadblocks I seemed to constantly run into. My pursuit of increased physical prowess always appeared to be followed by an unreasonable, disproportionate lingering soreness. The usual handicap I experience to hinder my career's progress went on, unfettered--business as usual, really. I couldn't for the life of me find someone to 練習する with (that's "practice", by the way). And all of my efforts to expand my social circle seemed in vain, at least in the temporal scheme. I reached out to a few people in an effort to stifle the overwhelming loneliness I was feeling at the time. I sent Joseph a simple text, just to see how he was faring, and ideally to hang out with him sometime. I looked at my phone all day, hoping to see a reply from him. It never came.

And you know what? I was really annoyed with him.

I have to constantly temper the obsessive feelings I have toward him with the obnoxious reminder to give him space and let him reach out to me, and let him show how much he values our friendship. The following Sunday came. A very embarrassing and uncomfortable Elders' Quorum taught by a sibling of mine (that's a story for another day) comes and passes. No Joseph. I catch a glimpse of him around the corner of the hallway. But I don't approach him. I'm assigned to a special home teaching class this one particular Sunday. Therefore, no Joseph in Sunday School. He ends up on the other side of the chapel during Sacrament meeting. I'm really quite irritated, uncharacteristically so, throughout the meeting. I let a bit of it display in my body language as I sit alone in one of the center pews. I stall for a moment or two after the meeting is through, and then finally go home when my frustration gets the better of me.

This is very unusual behavior for me. His failure to text me shouldn't come as a surprise to me. He doesn't seem to have much of an affinity for texting, as the sparce conversations we had when he was out of town for school would show.

Perhaps this is what a woman feels like, experiencing all the joys of the menstrual cycle. :-)

He showed up at our ward family home evening this time a week ago (the following day). I gave him distance. I'm glad I didn't get up and leave in irrational frustration the instant I saw him leave, though I was tempted to. Apparently he went to grab a Frisbee to play a few rounds of Ultimate, which is a favorite of mine. I treated him autonomously, just as I did all the other players, until the darkness stopped us. I definitely saw my prayers answered as a number of members expressed generally the desire to get together to do various things throughout the week. Joseph was one of them, wanting to organize a group to play Ultimate Frisbee that Thursday.

He approached me just after I said a general goodbye to everyone.

"Hey Aaron--I feel like it's been a while since we've talked."

Yep. He vaguely mentioned he had been busy.

"Are you coming to play Frisbee on Thursday?"

Do you really think by now I would say "no" even to playing a game of dolls with him?

Thursday was a blast. I caught a handful of important scoring throws. I teased him for nearly making me blush, given some of the praise he gave me for my work. Before the arranged carpool the next night to a local Institute activity, I texted him to see if he was planning on going. Turns out he wasn't--"I have some personal matters to attend to", he said. I could only speculate as to his meaning, but I renewed my invitation that he was more than welcome to come to me if he needed to get anything off of his chest.

This past Sunday: it's quite clear that he hasn't quite adjusted to our new schedule, as he is always late/absent for Elders' Quorum. Sunday School passes.

And then there was that moment before Sacrament meeting.

The halls were thronged. It was the missionary farewell of a member who also happened to be a recent convert, baptized in our humble young single adult ward. I was quite distracted between that and my waiting for the other ward to vacate the chapel to allow me to attend to my calling. Joseph approached me, in spite of the crowd. We chatted for a moment as I explained the circumstances behind the throng of visitors, and excused myself to attend to my calling.

It was his eyes. I had this overwhelming impression that still haunts me now that there were things that he wanted to say to me that he wasn't expressing. I spent the rest of the day with this internal struggle. I even prayed, expressing to the Lord that I was both eager and yet extremely hesitant to act on the impression to text Joseph and give him a chance to speak his mind if I indeed wasn't imagining things, unsure of whether this was a spiritual prompting or the product of my own frenzied mind.

As I reflected afterward, two impressions came to mind. One was to give him the opportunity to contact me himself, and if nothing else, I could voice my impression to him the following night at family home evening. The next impression was this: "Joseph does not need your distance."

Whoa. Talk about cryptic.

What could make this more interesting? Guess who was nowhere to be seen last night?

So I'm left feeling half-baked. Am I imagining things? Or is this the gift of discernment that I am absolutely certain that I have? There are certainly a number of dynamics in our relationship that I'm not even privy to, or so my gut instinct goes. Assuming that was a spiritual impression I had at Church; what is it that Joseph is leaving unspoken? Something more private than the personal challenges he has already confided in me? Is he uncomfortable with the newfound understanding that I experience same-sex attraction? Does he suspect that I am much more attracted and drawn to him than I let on? Does he see that as a threat to our friendship? These are the things that I suspect the most. But then again, what if it's something else entirely? What if he is much more intimately aware of my sort of human experience than he leads those around him to believe? What if there is indeed a reason why I have felt my gaydar triggered numerous times by him?

Crazed passion and unanswered questions seem to be the breeding ground for insanity. o_O

My Contrasted Views On the LGBT Narrative

I've mentioned before that I frequently have hypothetical conversations with myself. These are often triggered by seeing certain things or encountering particular ideas. One recurs whenever I see the yellow equal sign that is a bumper sticker on the car of many individuals who are sympathetic to the agenda of the LGBT community's media/political outlets.

This talk I commonly revisit is predominately a conversation of me explaining why I would not sport such a bumper sticker on my own car.

From a political and moral standpoint, you could consider me a very conservative person. My conviction is that there are moral absolutes that man has no ability nor authority to change. The larger narrative of the LGBT community negates that stance.

I am personally against the concept and practice of same-sex marriage. Not only do I feel that every person has the right to be raised by both a mother and father that love them, but I feel that both marriage and sex are unnecessary and, additionally, inhibiting to the proper expression of love between two members of the same gender. One can only do so much to control the romantic feelings personally experienced, but when it comes to practices that God has specifically forbidden (particularly in this case, those of same-sex marriage and sexual behaviors between two individuals of the same gender), they are barred by divine law for a reason, one I might delve into at a later time. But as a result of these views I have, I also am unsympathetic of the political movements I hear of occasionally for things such as the normalization of pedophilia, public nudity, and sexually explicit actions in both public media and performed in public places. I also recognize that these are items on the agenda of the few, not the many, but I can in no way espouse an organization whose value system is essentially a celebration of the lack thereof.

I may be unsympathetic to the cause of some larger organizations, but I can be very empathetic to individuals and individual circumstances. Remember who the guy is writing this. There is a very real part of me that finds the two very things I just classified to be forbidden as very appealing. But I know they do not form part of the plan God has in store for me. Though this is a very controversial remark to make, I don't believe that same-sex marriage nor homosexual behaviors are part of the plan God has for any of us. Please note that here, I write the things of my heart, not with the intent to win brownie points with anyone. Well, not with anyone mortal, at least. :-)

However, please don't misunderstand me. You could be a guy, married to another guy, and you might think by now that my first response to discovering that about you would be rife with words like "hell", "damnation", "brimstone", and "neon cats". But really, my immediate reaction to you would be much more like this:

"Oh, okay. I can respect that."

Because really, if you tweaked just a few of the circumstances of my life in the past decade, I could very well be you right now.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Why Am I Celibate? Why I Am Celibate...

This is a topic that is dear to my heart. English is a funny and a strange language. By simply switching two words in a sentence, you can radically change the meaning and implications it creates.

I was talking with a friend of mine on Thursday who's going through a few things. Something he mentioned was how he started meeting up with guys he was connecting with through Grindr, a gay dating site.

I thought to myself, "Hmmm..."

So on Friday, I created a profile on Grindr.

"Whoa whoa whoa, wait a second--you did what?" you might be saying. Let me explain:

I have a powerful belief that you can make a positive and very beneficial use out of almost anything, even things that are typically used for baser, unholy purposes. Really, it all boils down to what you are seeking, and what you are doing to go about seeking it.

Take, for instance, the friend I met with on Thursday. Him and I met as he responded to a post I made on Craigslist. Considering how I have not quite made the connections I had hoped for with even the best of people that I have interacted with on Craigslist, he made all of my efforts worthwhile. Understand, now, that in the two times we have met up, we would greet each other with a hug, talk about life for an hour or so, and then part with another hug. He's a great guy, even though he would vehemently deny that in light of his struggles. I can concede that he asked me a few questions ("interesting" is again the word I choose to use here, describing those questions) in our first visit that I had to navigate carefully. But he did warn me he was "horny" at the time. I am grateful he exercised as much self-control as he did.

So with this experience in mind, I thought I would test Grindr's virtue (which, by the way, is a sentence that feels really weird coming out of my mouth--er, fingers). Note that my experiences are my own, and I don't in any way desire to come across as espousing nor criticizing Craigslist, Grindr, or any similar resources. But I do mean to say that there are many things that can be acknowledged as such--resources--as they are used with prudence, care, and discipline.

Moving onward:

I think in the past few days, I have been rewarded for my belief that there are inherently good people out there. I have interacted with a few that are genuinely good people, both those who are celibate and those who are not, yet respect my decision to be so. Given, I have bumped into a few that weren't too fond of my choice of lifestyle, two of which sent me inappropriate pictures of themselves unexpectedly and without invitation, after which I promptly blocked them, and took measures to prevent further altercations of that nature. Although it's not too easy to have that shoved in my face, I knew there was the possibility of that happening. I'm already in a constantly libidinous state (behold my word of the year)--I don't really need anything to exacerbate that. Hopefully that doesn't happen again.

But I had an interesting conversation yesterday. I have a tendency to have these hypothetical conversations with myself, evaluating how I would respond in various situations. One of my favorites is the skeptic, questioning my faith and my consequent lifestyle. That is a conversation I have revisited a number of times.

This particular chat got interesting when this guy, who apparently lives close by, asked, "Why are you looking for "platonic" relationships with openly gay men?"

I thought that was a great question. There is a part of me that wants to believe that there are gay men out there that are genuinely good people (I am, aren't I?), that can put aside any ravenous romantic and/or sexual appetites they might have, even if it's only until the moment I am not in sight. That's not asking for too much, is it? No kissing, no excessive body contact, nor anything beyond that? I will wait until I have found Mrs. Lakely for all of those things (which is a conversation for another post). I'm not asking for someone to chip off a part of their soul that they will probably not get back. I would be very content to be friends where we would be willing to voraciously fight each others' battles, like the guys in the sitcoms at the plasma donation center, or in the anime I am so fond of.

Am I looking in the right place for that? I'm not 100% sure yet. But at least I'm still looking. Anyway:

I also explained to him that there is this innate part of me that knows that, in order to really and fully figure myself out, I will need to confirm and experience for myself that I can be attracted to a guy, and him possibly have mutual feelings, and be able to mantain a very positive, platonic relationship. Sex can only go so far, but no matter how much I might crave it at times, I know with complete certainty that sex that cannot have the Lord's stamp of approval will only ruin my life thoroughly.

That led/leads to my next point, that I wanted to save that part of me for when I fall in love with and marry my wife. I don't have much experience in this department, but I'm pretty sure that a fear of STDs/HIV would work pretty well at killing my (one-day) married sex life.

Did I ever say that I am probably going to talk openly about a number of generally taboo subjects?

Let me say that now: I am probably going to talk openly about a number of generally taboo subjects.

You've been warned. I can rest in peace now.

But I hope never to be inappropriate nor irreverent in the weighty things I discuss.

I digress...

It was interesting how intent he was upon challenging me. He told me that, if I continued my celibate lifestyle, I would end up in a mixed orientation marriage, sneaking around behind my wife's back for random sexual encounters with men. I refuted that. He told me that the eros wouldn't be nearly as good with a girl as with a guy. Maybe he's right. I don't really care, honestly. I told him I would simply have to see for myself. Then he asked me why I wouldn't do the same in his case or similar cases.

Somebody give this guy a prize. He's good.

I had to give him my best answer for such a well-thought-out question. I explained that, when it came to having a romantic and eventually a sexual relationship, I want to reserve that for a relationship that I knew had the potential to last for eternity, and to spoil that for a quick fix (or a series of quick fixes) would be to shortchange myself. Another point to him--he noted that I was stating these things as facts, and not as beliefs.

He's sharp.

I validated that, saying that these were things I knew to be true, as certainly as the sun is in the sky, and that I would fight like a raging lion to live in accordance with those truths I have. Though he argued that, basically, beliefs are subjective, and that there is no absolute truth, I rebutted, indulging him, that even if he was right, that didn't mean that I held conviction in something that wasn't true.

I basically ended the conversation there, but I had to thank him, as he allowed me to confirm a number of things to myself, renewing my determination to live the law of chastity. He certainly put up a very formidable intellectual fight, to which I was grateful to share my unwavering conviction and commitment.

So if you are asking why I am celibate, this is my reply.

Joseph: How I Am Feeling Right Now

Isn't it a funny thing, how irrational the heart can be? It seems to have a mind all its own, moving independently from the rest of one's being.

This is perhaps the first time that I can recall that same-sex attraction, specifically, has been a cause for heartache. Since I had that conversation with Joseph two Sundays ago, I can't stop thinking about him. More than anything else at this very moment, I want nothing more than to be with him constantly, to get better acquainted with him and his burden.

I love him for the person that he is, more genuine and sincere than anyone else that I can think of. Perhaps for some, learning of another person's character weaknesses makes them less appealing, less attractive. Although I don't know if this is how God works, it seems to me that a more intimate awareness of someone like Joseph makes him so much more real. I can relate to his trials on a number of levels, and have so much more love, respect, and admiration for Joseph, as he obviously values vulnerability for what it truly is. His person alone draws me to him in an overwhelming way.

To be entirely honest, he is also...hmmm...perhaps "hot" is too crude a word for my vocabulary...handsome? Attractive? Gorgeous, maybe? Okay, perhaps that last one is going too far. Not that it doesn't describe him, but...anyways, you get my point. He was on a swim team in high school, and as a result, his muscle-to-overall weight ratio definitely exceeds mine and the few years I have of consistently trying to keep my lean frame in shape. His is a gentle face, with straight black hair that he keeps relatively short. But then there are his eyes. His eyes do something that stir up the soul. Though he generally comes off as very relaxed, his eyes have a sadness to them, not all too different than looking into the eyes of a puppy that didn't get the love that it desired. Those eyes, they make me want to erase the sadness in them, to make sure he never doubts his own value, to be certain he always knows how loved he is, whether by God or just by me.

I would be lying if I said I wasn't sexually attracted to him. There has been a few times, when he has sat near me during Church meetings, that I have felt a palpable heat and an energy emitting from him. Although I manage to keep sexual fantasies to a minimum during the daytime, there are some moments, such as when I sleep and during wet dreams, that my mind wanders to places that it normally wouldn't...

And then there's yet another confusing aspect. Call it the "gaydar", call it the "please-be-gaydar", but there is this powerful intuition that I can't shake that he's gay also. Yes, he has dated a number of girls in the time he has corresponded to our ward, but don't most same-sex attracted members of the Church? I know I have, even if I haven't been as diligent. It is not something I feel rationally, but a sixth sense that tells me that there is much more of a reason as to why I feel this resonance between our souls than appears at first glance.

Mine is a mind that likes to approach situations from a number of hypothetical possibilities. Even given the turmoil that I feel, I have made a few decisions. First of all, even if he was gay and the emotions I feel toward him were mutual (which that currently huge, irrational part of me wants so badly right now), I would not at any point allow any aspect of our relationship to become sexual. As unnecessary as that conclusion may seem at this time, I need it, because, however big or small the chances are that he could end up feeling the same way toward me, I have determined that, more than anything else, more than any lust, that I fully and truly love him, and that I wouldn't want to do anything to put his salvation in jeopardy.

Second, I have decided that I want to respect Joseph's agency as much as possible. There is a decent chance that he isn't gay at all, or at least, not totally so. It would be entirely unfair of me to expect, as my heart desires, for him to conform to my desires, be that being with me at all times (or even just more often), talking even more openly with me, or even being a "celibate boyfriend." Joseph has a life to live, and even though my heart wants that life to revolve around me, I want to respect him enough to (attempt to) release that desire.

I don't know you well as a reader. You might be staunchly behind my decisions or vehemently opposed to them. If you fall into the latter camp, I do wish to say that I respect your views and your feelings, no matter how radically different they may be. I do not expect you or anyone, for that matter, to agree with me. It would not be very difficult at all for me to find a guy to hook up with--gosh, it's such a hassle dealing with some of the ones with baser intentions whenever I post in the "strictly platonic" section of Craigslist--but I'm choosing the harder right. But boy, how much harder does it have to be to find and develop emotionally intense platonic relationships? Our society today has made it unrealistically difficult.

Anyways, this is me in a nutshell:  I love Joseph with all of my heart. I want to be with him at all moments. If it wasn't for the knowledge and understanding that I possess, I don't think I would hesitate for a moment before letting my sexual appetites run loose. That is why I appreciate so greatly the wisdom I have gained. Even now, I look at my phone every few seconds, hoping to see a response from Joseph, as I texted him to follow up to see how he's been (I didn't get to talk much with him at Church last Sunday).

I am lonely. Circumstances prohibit me from pursuing the progress in my career that I so greatly desire, so I have much more spare time than I really want. In relationships, I am searching for the profound in a world full of the superficial. I can feel a foreboding loneliness in a crowd of people, yet I can stand by one person, and feel all the solitude in the world vanish away in an instant.

Where is that person?