Thursday, April 1, 2010

April theme: Rules to live by

Over the centuries society has established certain rules - a code of conduct - pertaining to relationships.  Rules that govern proper behavior - rules created with a heterosexual mind set.

For example, it's generally accepted that a happily married man does not fraternize with other women lest he be guilty of impropriety.  But what if the man doesn't view women in "that way".  What if she really is "just a friend" with absolutely zero chance that the relationship could lead to inappropriate behaviors?  Is it still wrong for him to spend time alone with her (just as a straight guy might spend time alone with his male friends)?  For that matter, is it wrong for a gay man in a mixed orientation marriage to spend time alone with his male friends?  Does it matter if said male friends are straight or gay?

Another example:  My wife and I were out driving around when I pointed out a new restaurant called "Bone Daddy's" as one I'd like to try some day.  My wife replied that she had heard that it was like "Hooters" except they served ribs instead of chicken wings.  To which I countered "if I ever go there - trust me, I really am there for the food."  Good Mormon boys don't go to places with scantily clad voluptuous women - but what if you're a Mormon boy who is impervious to womanly wiles?  Should the same rules apply?

On the flip side, there are situations that are completely innocuous for a straight guy - but which might prove challenging for the gay guy - such as a weekend camping trip with a friend..

This illustrates a problem we have in the homosexual community - the old established rules don't always apply to us in the same way.  It's like trying to play Parcheesi on a Chess board.  The problem we face is that it's only in recent history that homosexuality is beginning to be recognized as a valid human condition. 

This can leave us feeling like we are stuck between a rock and a hard place.  We are expected to comply with societal rules that make sense for straight guys - but, at the same time, there are other things we should be careful with because they present valid temptations that could lead us to making bad choices.  It's a double standard - we are expected to comply with all of their rules - but they are immune from compliance with our rules - rules which we often have to make up as we go along.  We get the worst of both worlds.

I recall once watching a documentary on Logo TV about a Christian summer camp - for gay kids.  One of the challenges they faced was with sleeping arrangements.  Summer camps normally segregate boys and girls - but what if you have a bunch of boys who like boys and girls who like girls?  Their solution - they had all the kids slept together in one room, boys and girls.  Different rules for a different situation.

For the April theme, consider your own personal situation (out or closeted, single or in a same sex relationship, in a MOM, etc.) - what rules does society set for you that seem extraneous or inappropriate?  What existing rules should apply to you and others in a similar situation?  What new rules might apply to your situation?

10 comments:

I am Landmark said...

I "confessed" to my bishop six months before my mission. His instructions: "Spend more time at the gym, because I needed to see what real men acted like and looked like."

Say what?

Faithful saint that I was, I followed his rule to the letter...and came away with a trove of mental images that sustained me for the next two years.

The more interesting question to pose: Are there indeed any ironclad rules to live by? Or is every rule situational?

Evan said...

I have been wanting to write on this subject for so long, but have never had a real motivation/time to do it. I can't wait :)

Thanks for the concept.

J G-W said...

Yes, we ran into one of these when we became foster parents.

We found out that the State of Minnesota prohibits girls from being placed in homes where an adult woman is not present... Presumably because a male foster parent would be too tempted by the presence of a teenage girl in the home, without the restraining presence of a wife.

So Göran and I could only have male foster kids. I mean, either they assume that heterosexual men have less self-control than gay men, or somebody designed these rules without considering the existence of gay people.

We are not legally prohibited from being foster parents! In fact, we were actively recruited by the agency because they where anxious to have more foster homes where gay kids could be placed and have role models, etc. So the rules just seem misguided and out of date.

Konrad said...

I think that the Christian summer camp did the right thing in changing the accepted norm to fit the needs of the people at the camp. I dont think that people should follow certain societal expectations (within reason) if they dont identify with the people who the expectiations were created for. Like you going to the hooters-esque place. It really would just be for the food. Why should you not enjoy a good meal just because others might see it as a chance at temptation? If it does not phase you then I say, go for it! More and more I am trying to set my own boundaries so that I am not holding myself to a standard that doesnt fit my needs.

Best,

Konrad

Anonymous said...

Abe,

One thing I found is that I continued to look at things from a heterosexual perspective long after I came out.

When I had a "single gay scenario", I often had to pose the question as a "single heterosexual scenario" before the answer became obvious.

But the "heterosexually married gay scenarios" were tougher.

I had to imagine a "homosexually married straight scenario" which had never existed as far as I knew at the time.

However, what really helped me think clearly about "gay scenarios" was when I finally understood that being in the closet and coming out was not a gay thing but a human thing imposed on a minority by a larger disapproving community.

I started to define the closet and coming out from the perspective of the person in the closet or coming out instead of from society's perspective.

Once I started to define the closet and coming out from the perspective of the "person in the closet" and not from the perspective of "people who had never been in the closet" then a lot of questions about what was appropriate for a closeted person coming out to do became obvious.

Regards,
Philip

Beck said...

I'm sorry, Philip but it isn't obvious to me. The rules of a MOM are not defined, the path is not clear, and maybe it is because I'm still seeing my marriage in the eyes of a heterosexual marriage and can't get beyond that mentality. How do you live by different rules when you can't envision them but in a real world setting?

Max Power said...

Ewwww! You would actually go to Hooters for the food? That's worse than going there for the boobs.

Anonymous said...

Beck asked: How do you live by different rules when you can't envision them but in a real world setting?

I am not sure I can answer your question.

It got a lot easier to see things from a gay perspective once I accepted that being gay was intrinsically no different than being straight.

Until I could equate the two, I kept looking for that "difference" that didn't exist but that I was sure others could see but I couldn't.

However, coming to this realization came in stages.

First, I intellectually accepted there was no difference.

It took years before I also could emotionally accept there was no difference.

It was more theory than practice the first years when I was only out to other gay people.

Eventually, I realized being out to just gay people still meant I was in the closet; just a bigger closet with more people in it.

I didn't really find emotional acceptance until I started coming out to straight people, too.

Turns out emotional acceptance was far more important to me than intellectual acceptance.

Coming out to only gay people had allowed me to progress from self-hatred to self-tolerance.

But(and I don't know why) coming out to a group of straight people took me from self-tolerance to self-acceptance.

Maybe it was having a community of straight people that accepted me just as I am that forced me to truly challenge than vanquished the last vestiges of my homophobia.

Once I equated gay with straight emotionally, as well as intellectually, it was a matter of making sure I was comparing apples to apples; not apples to oranges.

For instance, equating a heterosexually married gay man to a heterosexually straight man is equating apples to oranges while equating to a homosexually married straight man is equating apples to apples.

What does a homosexually married straight gay look like?

He looks exactly like me because our situations are the same so what he feels would be what I feel and what he is going through would be what I am going through.

So I thought about a heterosexual man in a committed, monogamous relationship with another man.

Again, I don't know what this says about me, but it was so much more obvious to me what the "problems" would be when the person in question was straight.

I hope this makes sense.

Regards,
Philip

Beck said...

It makes a lot of sense! It is worth ponder as I contemplate a homosexually married straight guy in situations and circumstances that I confront as a heterosexually married gay guy.

Thanks!

(Sorry to Abe for kidnapping the comment trail).

Scott said...

Wait... you mean there are rules?

Sarah and I have just been making this up as we go! :)

I'm joking, but only sort-of. I guess I ought to save what I have to say for a post of my own (it's been a month or two since I participated in the "theme"), but...

I really liked what Philip had to say: the rules for a MOM should be the same as those for a straight man who's in a monogamous same-sex relationship.

Except, since there hasn't been much need for rules like that, they've never been written, and so we really do need to make our own rules. And then we need to grow thick skins so that we won't be bothered when everyone else believes that we're doing wrong by not obeying the rules for a plain ol' straight marriage.