Sunday, August 30, 2009

I Must Needs Be Labeled

Over the past few months I've been thinking about how I would go about resetting my blog.  I felt like I had gotten to a point where I was writing myself into a corner on account of how I talked about my goals for the blog vs. where it ended up going.  Ultimately, I was using this blog to search for my identity.  But upon trying on different things in that attempt, I found myself getting locked into conditions that I wasn't comfortable with.   I started to worry a lot about being consistent, as if I was writing to an audience that was expecting me to only write a particular way and only about particular things. 

I wanted to present myself in a way that showed that I was mature, refined and intelligent.  Am I any of those things?  Who am I?  What am I?  What does it mean to be something?  I have been trying to figure that out my whole life.  I needed a definition.   I wanted to find my voice.  And I was searching for a role.  What is my role? 

It took me awhile to realize that when trying to define who I am by assigning myself a role, I'm no longer myself.  I'm that role.  And what was defining this role?  Perceptions?  Who's perceptions?  Mine?  Or my opinion of how I think others would perceive me.   Yeah, not just how I think others would perceive me but my opinion of how I think others would perceive me.   Such that I would attempt to predict how they might perceive me in a particular way, and then I would add to that judgment a judgment, good or bad, based solely on what I judge they might be thinking. 

Complicated?  Yeah, and fucking ridiculous too.  It's all a judgment of a judgment of a judgment of a judgment where all judgments are pulled out of my ass. I could probably channel that creativity into something more productive.

Unfortunately it's a bad habit from decades of habitually not thinking about the habitual thinking patterns that feed themselves with more bad habitual non-thinking. 

Wait, does that even make sense?  Yea, it does now that I've reread it a few times.  I just had to think about it.

We are taught in our youth that labels matter.   Yes, we are taught this.  We are taught to identify ourselves by those labels.  Is that why insults and name calling hurt so much?  Is it no wonder why we are cautioned not to use them to intentionally hurt people?  If labels didn't matter, we couldn't use them to hurt.  But they do matter and we do use them to hurt.  All the while we tell ourselves that we don't mean to hurt people. But we do. And we hurt ourselves too.

We give others permission, we give ourselves permission and sometimes we think we've been given permission by The Lord God Almighty™  to use labels, sometimes to intentionally hurt people.  The scriptures are full of labels.  Lists and lists of them.  All based on the author's personal bias.  Who is the author?  God?  It depends on who you talk to but many believe it was god.  Many of those believers gave themselves important, authoritarian sounding labels which gave them power over those who didn't. 

I spent decades being deceptively beaten into submission and subjected to the dictates of importantly labeled people.  So, any of my efforts to define my existence had basically been done for me.  I didn't have to figure it out.  I took it for granted that the labels placed on me, as to my identity, were who I really was?  

It started with simple labels that put an identity to how my behavior was being perceived by others: shy, quiet, bashful, funny, obedient, mature, depressed, arrogant, obnoxious, intelligent, annoying.   These were incidental moments, but over time, I adopted them as to who I was.  I could identify with these things easily. The definitions came from a dictionary.

Then there were the more abstract and complicated labels.  These were to deepen my identity and give it greater responsibility: Son, Brother, Friend, Student, Christian, Mormon, Child of God, Sinner, Homosexual, Abomination, Sodomite, Pervert, Pedophile, Apostate.  These roles were harder to define.  Too many different perspectives and opinions as to what these roles meant.  It was harder to adapt to these roles.  They kept changing depending on the time or the place or the other person's perception.  I resisted many of them but they would stir in the back of my mind, beckoning me to define and attach to my identity. 

What did they say about me?  Obnoxious?  Christian? Sinner? Mature? Pervert? Child of God? Pedophile? Am I these things?  How do I know?  How do they respond to the idea of each of these things?  If they think the label is positive can I meet their expectations? Should I meet them?  If it's negative is it true?  What is my experience?  If I believe their perceptions are valid then those labels might be true, even if I don't like them, even if they are not true.  What do I do?  If they are not true am I going to need to take on opposing roles so as to appear unpredictable and inconsistent, also labels, in order to hide or disassociate from them?  Hopefully those labels would be taken away if I did.  Or do I just resign my identity to the labeling authorities' and live accordingly so as not to counter their expectations of what I should do thereby avoiding unwanted conflict? 

It's psychotic.  Once these labels are assigned, they taint how we perceive others and ourselves; we distort who we really are. 

So, all this time I've been caught up in labels, caught up with needing a label for my identity.  Who am I?  What am I?  What am I right now?   Does it have a label?  Writer?  Brother?  Son?  Homosexual?  Pervert? Etc.?  Or can I just believe that I am mature, refined and intelligent?  At least that's what I tell myself to counter the negative labels that I've been forced to identify with.  But, ultimately, that just causes me to take on a role of self-righteousness and arrogance as it's only a reaction to anyone who I perceived as not being mature, refined and intelligent.

No.  I'm not any of these things.  They are all someone else's version of me.  And in the end these roles require that I behave in ways that are also defined by someone else.  None of them describe the being that is me. 

Does it matter? 

I want to understand myself but, again, the moment I think I have an understanding I've already assigned it a role, a label, based on someone else's perception.  It's the classic physics problem wherein the attempt to measure the event causes the event to change.  We are only ourselves when we are not trying to define, label or categorize ourselves.

Our existence seems to evade traditional definability.  Are we then indefinable?  We can't even say we are human as that is really only a label to describe our physical from.  It's not who we are.  The best I could say as a definition is that we are beings who are aware of ourselves. 

So, when I'm not thinking about who I am, I'm not trying to be someone.  At that point I'm just me. If I can be content to never understanding who I am does that mean I've finally found who I am?   I can't really put my finger on why, but this actually makes sense to me. 

So, anyway, back to this blog... I've decided what I'm going to do about it. 

Nothing. 

It is what it is: a public presentation of some guy's journey in life marked with specific points in time by long strings of words that reflect the contents of his brain as he dumps it from a big dump truck and pipes it into the series of tubes that is the Internet. 

He'll think whatever, and write whatever.

You can read whatever and think whatever.  If you feel inclined to comment, you can write whatever.

Win-Win!

Yay!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Looking Back


NOTE:

The following was a letter I sent to my mom in July of 2008. It was an attempt to explain to her my rocky relationship with the church over the years. It's interesting to look back and see what I was working through during my moments of clarity, although, parts of it are aimless and incoherent. It is what it is and marks a milestone
in my path to thinking for myself. WARNING: It's long. But then I had a lot to say.


---

Well, I keep going back to the churches official statement on homos.

http://newsroom.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/public-issues/same-gender-attraction

And it's continually laced with behavior this and behavior that.

OAKS: "The distinction between feelings or inclinations on the one hand, and behavior on the other hand, is very clear. It's no sin to have inclinations that if yielded to would produce behavior that would be a transgression. "

WICKMAN: "One of the great sophistries of our age, I think, is that merely because one has an inclination to do something, that therefore acting in accordance with that inclination is inevitable. That's contrary to our very nature as the Lord has revealed to us. We do have the power to control our behavior."

Remember about what I said regarding behavior that is unconscious.
They are not referring to that. It appears that they don't recognize it at all. What they are getting at is holding hands, hugging, kissing, etc. Behaviors that would get one kicked out of BYU if it was between the same sex. Those are visual, made by choice and are judged by them as sinful, disgusting, abominable, perverted etc. Between opposite sex it's expected and desired behavior.

Wickman is especially offensive when he refers to it as a lifestyle and that we are just simply "afflicted with same-gender attraction". His statement is basically why I have to get the fuck out of here. The reality is not that I'm afflicted with same-gender attraction, the reality is that I'm afflicted by other peoples ignorance and bigotry and fear. The semantics of the argument are to twist it into what amounts to as emotional blackmail.

Check out the section where he uses his handicapped daughter as a tool for manipulating his point. It has a place as an illustrative example but it is manipulative because to me it compares apples to asparagus.

I'm still trying to argue with these people in my mind. I feel the need to challenge these things because it's very clear to me that the truth is getting manipulated with semantics in order to misrepresent or demonized homosexuality as it exists within natural human behavior. It's frustrating to me because I don't know how to communicate what it is they are doing all of the time.

They just don't understand how hurtful it is to be marginalized especially in the very subtle ways they are doing it. It's hard to let go of. Right now I'm lacking any gay affirming influences because I'm so isolated out here. But that's just what they want me to avoid. As long as I can never accept who I really am they will be able to exhort a measure of control over me. I just don't know what to do right now.

Somehow I can't help but think that the truth of my existence has been used against me in order for the church to exhort some sort of control. But what is this control? Why do they want to control? That I don't understand. With control there is no agency. But they keep teaching agency but it's always associated with the teaching of consequences. But that is common sense. However it's tainted. It's loaded down with promises of things to come. I must have faith and I must make the right choice or I will not reap the benefits of the after life. If I fail to make the right choice I will be cut off. Promises and threats, to warn me of the right and wrong choice. And then a judgment on what is right and wrong. It's as if I'm not allowed to think for myself. But then if I don't make the choice I'm told to make, then the church cuts me off and says that I've cut myself off from god. I'm controlled or "forced" to pick the right choice. But what about the reward? Well if I didn't get the reward than I'm told I didn't choose "hard" enough. This sounds hyperbola. The explanation may seem contrived but the experience and the feelings are not.

This is madness. I come to the church for answers and put effort into it and they promise answers and all I get back are reasons why I'm not going to get answers. I get condemnation for something I didn't choose. Telling me (at least in the past) that it was something I did or created and that I didn't work hard enough to be rid of it or I really didn't want it to go away. Why did I put so much trust in the church? Because I was told that the church was [guided with] this mysterious thing called the spirit and that would give normal people knowledge beyond what the world could ever figure out on their own. I wanted this great spirit to give me knowledge and answers.

But those answered never came. Why? I was told that I didn't have enough faith. What was faith? I believed that I would get answers and was told that the reason I got nothing because I didn't have enough faith and if I wanted answers I had to work harder. I didn't know that believing and faith were the same thing. But whatever the case may be, I was lead to believe that what ever was lacking was my fault and I would have to figure out what the problem was on my own and if I asked god he would help though the spirit. In the mean time I invest time and even some money into this church and all I get back is someone telling me that I'm not doing it right.

But then what is the church for? The church is for the people. Then why do the people have to work so hard for the church? Why must I prove to the church my worthiness?

I'm told that I must repent of homosexual tendencies. Tendencies? So these are things that I can "stop doing" or swing back to heterosexual tendencies? That sounds laughable.

To do that, I have to rid myself of them. How? This is so inherent to my ingrained thinking I don't know how to think any other way. I have to destroy that part of me. How? I can only deny that part of me. I have to lie to myself. How can that create a stable personal identity? It doesn't. I should know. I tried it. But I still had no concept for heterosexual tendencies.

It bugs the shit out of me that the church only thinks of it in terms of erotic attraction. I can't even begin to explain how surreptitious that line of rationalization is. It's as if to admit that if it's anything other than sex then it would put it in danger of getting legitimized.

There seems to be this preoccupation with sex. It seems to be one of the most prominent tools used to control and manipulate in the church.

I have never known a time in this church when I never felt like I was being manipulated, controlled and punished. There was always something I wasn't doing right. And it didn't matter how small and mundane. It got to the point that everything in my life had a right and wrong answer. I couldn't trust my own judgment anymore. How could I? No matter what I thought, there was always someone else judging my decision as not in accordance with the "right" choice. I didn't really know what that the judgment of "right" was. I had the spirit but I couldn't figure it out. There was always some authority figures with the spirit who would always tell me my choices were "wrong".

They were always people in the church.

So the church is made out of men. Men who are constantly telling us that the lord directs the church. But then where is the lord on this issue? I guess it doesn't really matter that much. I don't really get the purpose of the lord in this plan anyway. But nonetheless, where is he? Where is the revelation that tells us what the deal is with gay people? No one has asked. The proclamation was never claimed to be revelation.

But what of this scripture: http://scriptures.lds.org/2_ne/4/34-35#34
2 Nephi 4:34-35

"34 O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm.
35 Yea, I know that God will give liberally to him that asketh. Yea, my God will give me, if I ask not amiss; therefore I will lift up my voice unto thee; yea, I will cry unto thee, my God, the rock of my righteousness. Behold, my voice shall forever ascend up unto thee, my rock and mine everlasting God. Amen. "

So the church is made of men whom I'm not to trust in. But the church says trust in the men as they "are led by god". And the men assure us that God would never allow the men of the church to lead us astray. But who is saying that? Well, God is, right? I go to him and ask him, as he should be the one that tells me what's going on. "
IF I ask not amiss." and then a string of appeasement? It is written as such but that would be silly for that to be what is meant.

But the men in the church want appeasement or I'm not righteous enough. They tell me that it's the reason why, when I went to pray for confirmation, I got a DIFFERENT answer than what they told me. They said it was because I asked amiss, that I was selfish and was denying the spirit. I had done it wrong.

I don't know how many times I've heard them tell me over the years to go back and pray about it until I got the answer that they said I should get.

Manipulation indeed.

Well the men are running this church right now. And because of that I can't continue on. Some times I feel like I'm betraying you(mom). Sometime I feel like I've actually fallen into the trappings of the devil. The men of the church warned me over and over again that the adversary would work really hard to do this and ensnare me to twist and corrupt the words to work in my favor.

Yet no matter what I read I see the words being open ended for anyone to twist and distort them to be used for what ever purpose they want them to be.

The men in the church use their standing as the authority to judge my views as sinful and my life as inherently flawed. And that this flaw is a burden I must carry the rest of my life. But they judge that this burden, as an internal struggle of same-sex attraction, is no different than someone's susceptibility to gambling, tobacco or alcohol? (Oaks says this stuff) His tactics, by using such conditions as examples of comparison, stand on their own merits as missing the point as far as I'm concerned. And I would pray that people would really examine the reality of the church's silly treatment of the gay issue in society and then just leave us alone. Stop trying to fix us. Stop trying to set us aside as perversions of nature who are a threat to children and the moral fabric of society.

I don't see same-sex attraction as the burden anymore. And I can't find compelling reason to even believe that homosexual sex is sinful. And I would be amiss to not realize that the men in the church make sure I understand that I've rationalized myself into this egregious apostasy and sinned against god and nature. After all, homosexual sex is one of the vilest acts of indecency the church has had the privilege to condemn.

But this isn't about sex. It's about love. If I can't accept the reality that I fall in love with other men than I can't possibly learn to accept myself and understand the concept of loving myself. A concept that has been utterly foreign to me all my life. How can I understand what it means to love god or neighbor if I can't even know the basic love of who I am.

No, the real burden is to go though life as a second class human being in the eyes of the church and much of society. Prone to discrimination and threat of life. To be hated by some for no other reason than to fulfill their need to hate someone.

The biggest lie is that this life is a test or exam. It's not a test. It's an experience. But just last Sunday that old line was fed again and again. "This life is a test to see what we will do. To test our willingness to make right choices. And as we make the right choices, God rewards us in heaven." blah blah blah. Right and wrong choices. There seems to be a problem when a group of people who have no knowledge or experience in another person's life has the authority to dictate what is the right and wrong choice for them. And then claims authority to dish out judgment and punishment if the "right" choice isn't made.

What am I still holding on to? I'm still holding out for some more answers. And admittedly I got my answers but they were just too hard to take. I have to give up things I'm not sure I can give up. I have to face head on fears that have followed me for years. It is hard. There are so many dehumanizing and demonizing beliefs that have been ingrained in me. And because of my self-realization, I know now that they must be lies. But the small shred of truth that I see in them feeds my doubts.

I recognize that the very thing the church warns of and fights against is the very thing they are responsible for creating. They fulfilled their own prophecy of the evils of homosexuals. It's that world they created I fear.

I feel like the church has managed to inflict me with severe emotional abuse.
And surely I have felt this religion as more hurtful than of healing. As many others have too. But the baggage that we all carry with us I'm afraid will prevent me from proving the church wrong.

No matter what I do it just turns out to be one big double bind for me.

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