Saturday, October 20, 2007

Venturing "out"

Some time ago I was wondering how gay's in other religions were dealing; so, I did some searching (googling) and, in May, I came across the Gay Christian Network (GCN). I was intrigued by their Side-A and Side-B; so, I joined and identified myself as Side-B, which believes that "that God calls gay Christians to lifelong celibacy." Being married, I'm not celibate, per se; but, I am 'gay celibate'. (You can read more about GCN Side-A and Side-B on The Great Debate page.)

Living in Texas, I am cut off from the other MoHos - my only connection is through the internet. So, when the members of GCN who live in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Arkansas were planning to meet in Texas this last weekend - I decided to attend. I won't say I jumped at the opportunity because, truth be told, I was absolutely terrified at the idea. I talked to my wife; I won't say she was supportive of the idea; but, she wasn't adverse to it either. So, I signed up. They were meeting Friday evening for dinner and bible study. They also had activities planned for Saturday, and were planning on going to a local GLBT church on Sunday with a picnic afterwards. But, I decided for my first meeting, I would join them just on Friday for dinner and bible study.

Why was I so terrified? Well, you see, Abelard is pretty comfortable with his homosexuality; but, Abelard is my virtual persona who hides behind the anonymity of the internet. My real self is deeply entrenched in my closet and is presumed to be straight by all that meets me. This would be the first time that my real self ever acknowledged my homosexuality to anyone other than my wife. The meeting was held in a conference room at a hotel. When I walked into that room - I was basically announcing to everyone in the room that I'm gay. Of course, everyone in the room was also gay which tended to soften the blow quite a bit. But, it was still scary. My biggest fear was that I was going to drive all the way there and then not be able to get up the nerve to get out of the car and end up driving home again. But, I overcame my fears and walked into that room - head held high. Well, actually, I kinda slinked into the room and timidly asked "is this the GCN meeting?"

My fears were soon dispelled. I was greeted warmly by all who were there (there was a total of 13 people, including myself). We sat and talked while others arrived. We dined together on fajita's (from a local restaurant). And then we all got our bibles out for an hour of bible study. Afterwards, we talked briefly to see if anyone was interested in going to see For the Bible Tells Me So which was playing at a local theater; but, everyone declined; so, we just sat around and talked some more as people, one by one, bid their farewells. I stayed until there were just a few left, helped clean up the conference room we were meeting in, and then bid my farewell and drove back home. I think it was about 10:30pm when I finally left the hotel. As I drove home, I was on cloud 9 - I've never felt so good about being gay! This was my first time venturing "out", and it was good.

It felt really good to be in a room full of people who all have similar values to mine - and are gay. To be able to be myself without worrying about something I might say or do, some mannerism, that might tip off those around me that I might not be the straight arrow I pretend to be. When I first brought up this idea with my wife, she said that she doesn't understand that - and I'm having a difficult time explaining it to her. But, I expect that all of the gay people who read my blog know exactly what I'm saying. For the first time, in possibly my entire life, I didn't feel isolated. For the first time I fit in - I was with my own kind. I wasn't alone in a room full of people.

As we were chatting, we were just a group of friends talking about stuff. Most of the time, if someone were walking past the conference room and paused to listen to what we were talking about - I doubt they would even suspect it was a room full of gay guys (well, except for the sign on the door :) ). There were some gay related discussions; but, it was things like how to get greater acceptance from mainstream Christianity.

I wasn't really quite sure what to expect with "bible study". In the LDS church we have 'scripture study'; but, was this the same thing? Or was it going to be something entirely different? The person leading the bible study (a college student from Austin) selected 2 Cor 4:1-12; and, we spent an hour discussing those 12 verses and what they mean to us. I think I was the only person in the room using the King James version of the bible; so, when they read the verses, they didn't quite use the same words as are written in my bible. For example, one of the questions was "what are the 'jars of clay' referring to in verse 7?" - my bible doesn't say 'jars of clay', it says 'earthen vessels'. Although, all in all, I was blown away at the spiritual depth of these fine men. I came away feeling that I really need to work on improving my own spirituality.

There were some new experiences for me. For example, during dinner, I was sitting next to a gentleman who had come in later and missed my initial introductions. He noticed the ring on my finger and asked if I was married. When I replied 'yes', he then asked "to a man? or to a woman?" ... I'll have to admit, I've never been asked that question before. I, of course, answered "to a woman", which he was totally OK with, and we enjoyed pleasant conversation throughout dinner.

While I'm on the topic, I encourage you to, at least, check out the Gay Christian Network (GCN). They have public forums that everyone can see (even non-GCN members); and, they have private forums that only members can see. For example, they have a Side-B forum (for celibate gay christians); but, you have to be a member of GCN and have to request membership to that forum in order to see it. But, in the Side-B forum, they discuss things that would be of interest to MoHo's, such as Side-B relationships, films and novels that approach homosexuality from a Side-B perspective, Celibacy and the Big M, etc. They also have other special interest forums. For example, I am a member of: mixed-orientation marriages, 50-somethings, and gcn west south central (which is the group that met in Texas this weekend).


Kengo Biddles said...

It sure is nice to be able to just be.

Silus Grok said...

Great post!

Keep us, um, posted… d'love to hear how the next one goes and how you're received as a gay mormon christian.

Abelard Enigma said...

I feel like I've been accepted. My GCN profile states

I am a husband, father, and grandfather
I am a Christian and a Mormon
... and I also happen to be gay

I haven't just been lurking - I've been actively participating in the forums (my post count is up to 123 as of today). I have seen an occasional comment where someone says they don't consider Mormon's as Christians; but, there hasn't been anything directed at me personally. Plus, I've had a couple of people send me unsolicited private messages welcoming me to GCN and saying that they consider Mormon's to be Christians.

I posted a link to the "God Loveth His Children" pamphlet with a subject heading of "LDS church reaching out." It only got a few comments, but they were all positive.

Beck said...

You are an example to me! Your small steps are giant ones really for those of us to follow.

Fear is a funny thing. It keeps us enclosed within ourselves because of the "what ifs" of being misunderstood, hurt, rejected, scoffed at, etc. And yet, reality typically is much kinder than the fears we conjure up in our minds. Why is that? Why must FEAR be the over-riding principle that governs closet dwellers? How do we closet-dwellers come to terms with our fears, unfounded for the most part?

We take steps...outward.

Thanks, Abe!

MoHoHawaii said...

Congratulations! I hope you'll have more chances for events like this.

J G-W said...

I'm totally out, in every setting. Still, the experience of meeting and spending time with gay Mormons when I was in Utah this past week was huge... Connecting with others, being able to comfort each other, learn from each other, talk, ask questions... This is a big, big deal.

GeckoMan said...

Abe, this is really cool that you took the courageous steps to do this! It must have been wonderful to feel part of that 'brotherhood' in a group of faithful gay men, probably not unlike going somewhere distant and finding a group of Mormons and simply having that common bond and understanding to interpret comments and know what's really going on.

And congratulations on talking this over with your wife first; that took some courage and commitment to openess on your part. (Now you're ahead of the game with me!) I hope your return and report session was good for both of you as well.

Thanks for sharing.