Monday, September 22, 2008

Double bind

My therapy assignment for this week is to research double bind to see if that applies to me. A double bind is
a dilemma in communication in which a person receives two or more conflicting messages and one message denies the other, a situation in which the person will be put in the wrong however they respond, and the person can't comment on the conflict, or resolve it, or opt out of the situation.
Double bind theory came about when studying schizophrenia and proposes that symptoms of schizophrenia are an expression of contradictory patterns of interaction in the family - for example, a child growing up in a home where a parent verbally tells a child that they love them but their non-verbal communication says that they wish the child were gone out of their life.

I still need to give this more thought, but there are some unresolvable conflicts in my life.
  • I am a gay man who is heterosexually married to a woman.
  • I yearn for an intimate (though not sexual) relationship with a man; but, I also love my wife and want to maintain an intimate relationship with her and not do anything to hurt her.
  • I want to remain active in the LDS church (which has a largely homophobic culture) and I want to be part of a church family that loves and accepts me, and others like me, for who and what we are and not who we pretend to be.
Is this a double bind? I don't know. Double bind seems to be concerned more with conflicting communication we receive from others. My conflicts are more internalized; although, they certainly present me with seemingly unresolvable paradoxes - that's got to mess with a person's mind, no wonder I'm so screwed up.

One thing that sure seems like a double bind is how the LDS church regards homosexuality.

Formal doctrine and teachings tells us that merely having same sex attraction is not a sin - it's only when we act on those attractions that we sin. We are taught that people with same sex attraction are treated the same as everyone else and are held to the same standards as everyone else. Yet, the LDS church has policies and practices that send a different message.
  • The whole mess in California with the LDS church abandoning its normal position of political neutrality and encouraging members to donate their time and means to support proposition 8 banning same sex marriage via a constitutional amendment. Out of all of the political issues in our society - why pick this one to take a stand on?
  • While modern church teachings separate attraction from behavior, when a person confesses to their bishop, they are often counseled to read "The Miracle of Forgiveness" which doesn't make that distinction and refers to homosexuality as "the abominable and detestable crime against nature"
  • We're told it's OK to be gay - but we're not supposed to call ourselves 'gay' or 'homosexual' preferring politically correct terms like 'same gender attracted'. Is there any other group of people in the church who are told to not refer to themselves by culturally accepted jargon?
  • We're told it's OK to be gay - but we're not suppose to exhibit homosexual attributes or flaunt our homosexual characteristics (I don't even know what that means).
  • Whenever we are planning an activity that involves costumes, it seems we always receive explicit instructions that guys are not allowed to wear costumes depicting them as girls. Does anybody really believe that putting a dress on a boy will turn him into a homosexual? And, why aren't girls dressing like boys equally disdained?
  • According to the general handbook of instructions, if a young man fornicates heterosexually, he has to wait at least 1 year before he will be allowed to serve a mission. If he fornicates homosexually then he has to wait at least 3 years - and then only if the transgression occurred in his teenage years. If a young man has a homosexual experience after graduating from high school then it is extremely unlikely he will ever be allowed to serve a mission, regardless of the circumstances.
  • We're told that a homosexual who commits to living church standards is eligible to hold any calling in the church. Yet, it's not hard to imagine that a person with publicly known homosexual attractions would never be put in a position working with young men. Even if he were, it's not hard to imagine certain parents going to the bishop with their concerns. Yet, I don't get the sense of similar concern about a Lesbian working with young women.
  • According to the general handbook of instructions, church records are to be permanently notated for repeated homosexual transgressions - yet there is no such notation required for repeated heterosexual transgressions.
Is it just me? Or is the unwritten and unspoken message contradictory to what we are told? As gay Mormon's, are we faced with a double bind? Are we simultaneously being told
  • we are loved
  • we are disgusting
  • we are treated as equals
  • our sins are far worse than all others
  • we need to love and accept ourselves for who we are
  • we need to hide our true selves and repress our feelings
  • homophobia is not becoming of a good latter day saint
  • anything remotely associated with homosexuality is repulsive
  • we respect the beliefs of others
  • except if they're queers


A.J. said...

My Bishop did not give me miracle of forgiveness to read he actually was very kind and gave me a copy of the church's new pamplet God loveth his children. We can't wear masks at church halloween activities either. It is a cultural thing with the not letting men dress in drag. It's not fair I wear men's jeans,t'shirts and shoes and its ok but a guy can't wear a dress? doesn't seem fair to me. The 3 year restriction for missionaries who have had gay sex doesn't seem fair but I can tell you spending 24 hours a day with a companion you are attracted to is very difficult. I wouldn't want to go through that again. I couldn't imagine how hard it would be if your comp was also gay. If I knew myself better back then I would not have gone on a mission.

One of So Many said...

I feel the double standard too. Though I feel that love is given only lip service.
It's hard to feel secretly hated, but coming out is all but discouraged by my bishop.

MoHoHawaii said...

Does anyone at church (bishop, etc.) know about your orientation?

Robert said...

My first Bishop whom I told gave me Miracle of Forgiveness and wow I got depressed reading it...I quit reading mid-book. I totally understand your feelings. I went on a mission after having homo experiences and if I hadn't served a mission, I know I would be in a gay relationship. The things that I learned there are the only reasons I'm still in the church trying to do better. I think all your depictions are accurate. You hinted to teh idea that we need to make sure to recognize the difference between the church and the members. I also had another thought concerning the role of the church in our lives. It is there to facilitate spirituality and provide necessary ordinances.

It is very hard not to become upset at the mixed messages, double standards, and bias. And why would they think that gay means trans? I've never wanted to wear a dress, I've just wanted things that I see girls a cute guys affection. ;)

Abelard Enigma said...

spending 24 hours a day with a companion you are attracted to is very difficult.

I had some unholy thoughts about a few of my missionary companions - and I survived - I didn't try to hit on any of them.

Though I feel that love is given only lip service.

I do feel that the love that is expressed is genuine; but, it's a conditional love.

Does anyone at church (bishop, etc.) know about your orientation?

No. I've seen no need since I've never done anything requiring confession to a church authority. I am curious, why do you ask?

I've been in some position working with the youth for most of my adult life. I expect that would come to an abrupt end were my orientation to ever become known - if only to 'avoid the very appearance of evil' since it wouldn't 'look good' to have a gay guy working with teenage boys. Also, any position requiring boy scout adult leader registration opens up a whole new can of worms

And why would they think that gay means trans?

Don't even get me started on the 'gender confused' phrase we hear so often. I have no confusion about my gender - I am a man and I like being a man. And, just because I like guys doesn't make me less of a man.

robert said...

This is a great post. I hope many read it in order to understand themselves better and penetrate the veil of institutionalized homophobia. I think your therapist is doing a great job. And you are doing an even better job of deconstructing the issues which create your own cognitive dissonance. While it may be disconcerting to see the LDS Church (among many others) throw its weight behind the political process in Prop 8, it is enlightening to those affected.

Beck said...

I find myself in double binds all the time, particularly regarding all things associated with a MOM.

I get uptight about the attitudes of some of the members and the group mentality of hating gays, but somehow I'm able to separate that off from what the Church does for me: motivating good service from within me that I wouldn't do otherwise, facilitating spirituality and ordinances (as Robert I noted), supporting me and my family to be better, more loving people.

As for the inconsistencies you note - they'll always be there, but they don't create a "double bind" in my mind. I can't always (and I've blogged about when I can't and I get upset), but for the most part I can segregate them off. That doesn't mean I accept the inconsistencies or tolerate injustice or bigotry when I see it.

My double bind is wanting a boyfriend and a wife and family at the same time. Now that's a "double bind"!

Chedner said...

I think the greatest double bind, at least from what I perceive, within the LDS church in regards to homosexuality are the two counsels: 1) Judge between good and evil according to the fruits being produced; and 2) Follow the [current] prophet.

A truly honest person cannot deny the good fruits being produced by committed homosexual couples raising families; however, the prophet says such a coupling is evil (sure it's couched in more gentle terms, but let's be honest: a threat to society = evil).

So... does a faithful Latter-day Saint believe homosexual unions are good -- based on Christ's guidelines for discerning good from evil -- or does a Saint believe homosexual unions are evil -- based on Christ's guidelines to heed the prophets?

It is impossible [for an honest, meek heart] to choose one without forsaking the other.

In my personal life, there's been another double bind that tears at me even presently: Do I make my parents and other family proud or do I live according to what I believe is right and true?

In conclusion, double binds suck.

MoHoHawaii said...

I was thinking of Clint's experience, which you probably already read. He came out in F&T meeting recently.

I don't know why I think this (it's just an intuition) but I am guessing that your church-related double binds are related to being 100% closeted at church. What if there were a handful of people with whom you could be frank? Would that make things better at church?

I sucked at the double bind stuff. My own coming out (and exit from the church) was just the only way I could figure out not to go crazy. I didn't really choose to come out. Coming out chose me. Consequently, I'm probably not much help here (my advice is to find another dang church already). :- ) Barring that, figure out a way to find a social circle, even if it's small, where you can be completely be yourself.

Abelard Enigma said...

While it may be disconcerting to see the LDS Church ... throw its weight behind the political process in Prop 8, it is enlightening to those affected.

That's an interesting thought, and puts a positive spin on a negative situation - is that the silver lining?

My double bind is wanting a boyfriend and a wife and family at the same time. Now that's a "double bind"!

I'm not so sure that is a 'double bind' - at least as I understand it; although, I'm sure there is some fancy psychological term for it; but, a double bind appears to be external in nature where we receive conflicting information from a trusted source. What you speak of is our own internal torment wanting, yet not wanting, that which we yearn for. We want it, but we don't want it so bad as to be willing to sacrifice that which we already have. The proverbial eating our cake and having it too.

I think the greatest double bind ... within the LDS church ... are the two counsels: 1) Judge between good and evil according to the fruits being produced; and 2) Follow the [current] prophet.

Now that's a double bind.

my advice is to find another dang church already

I understand what you are saying - and to be honest, it's something I have thought about. What keeps me where I am is that I still have a strong testimony of the restored gospel - It's my faith and testimony in the restored church that is being put to the test. I once considered them to be one and the same - I'm not so certain anymore. As flawed as the church appears to be at times, it's still the only place that teaches the restored gospel. The truth of the matter is, I believe 99% of what the church teaches - it's that pesky 1% that is causing so many problems for me. Is joining a church where I only believe 80% of what is taught truly the answer?

BTW, I really appreciate everyones comments - reading them, and responding, helps me to better understand my own thoughts and feelings.

Philip said...

I don't know if this is a double bind but I have always tried to be a good man (ethical) while my intuition has forced me to be true to myself. The conflict arises because what I define as a good man (for example, never hurting others, especially the ones I love) and being true to myself often takes me in opposite directions.


AmbiguouS One said...

Thanks for the post. It is so comforting to know that I'm not the only Mormon who feels this same way about an existing double standard. I'm not crazy after all!