Sunday, February 21, 2010

3. I decided it was time to have sex with a guy

3. I decided it was time to have sex with a guy

About two years after moving back to Sydney in 2005, while working for a large consulting company, I managed to secure a three month assignment in Dayton, Ohio. I was the only single guy in the team, so three months in the U.S.A. was going to be a lot of fun.

It wasn’t until I got there that I thought about how much fun it could be, I was a long way from home, no one knew me and perhaps this was a chance to be a gay man and see what it was like. Keep in mind I really had little idea what that really meant, so it was a journey of self discovery. 

I had a battle going on in my head about how I should behave and how I wanted to behave. It was time for me to explore that part of me that wanted to behave in a way I had never behaved before. I think it’s reasonable to say I was out of control.

At this stage of my life, I’d never been intimate with a guy or a girl. It was something I’d wanted for a long time and finally I decided that it was going to happen. This period was my “coming out” for myself, finally being authentic about who I was. This process is unique for everyone. I’ve spoken to many gay men since and everyones story is unique and their own.

What follows is my own very personal adventure that came to confirm for me that I really was gay. I had the idea in my head that I had to have sex, only then would I really know if I was gay or not. I’m still not sure if that’s really accurate, but it’s how I felt at the time.

I had to travel to Philadelphia for business at one point, I was staying in the down town part of the city in a great hotel. Philadelphia is an old city, with more of an English feel than more modern US cites in the west. Narrow cobble stoned streets and loads of atmosphere, it is a great city with what I discovered was a vibrant gay community. While having dinner in a bar, I was looking for something to read while I waited for dinner. I found some free newspapers, one of which was a gay newspaper. I’d never seen a gay newspaper before, I thought this was very progressive. Little did I know Sydney’s Star Observer had been published for almost 30 years.

The paper was interesting, good articles and enjoyable to read. When I got to the classified section at the back I discovered pages of men selling their services for massage, massages with ‘happy endings’ or ‘relief’ and more. I was intrigued, I had many massages throughout my life, but I wasn’t familiar with these terms. Applying a little imagination I soon realised what these men were offering and I thought this could perhaps be a starting point for what I was looking for. The idea of finding some random guy at a bar for sex was scary and not appealing. At 36 I was very aware of safe sex and the implications.

I kept the newspaper, took it back to the hotel and selected one of the guys for a massage. He was only four or so blocks from the hotel. I made sure I had cash to pay him for his services, I was confident he wouldn’t take visa! I was as nervous as hell, but wanted to experience this more than anything else. I arrived at his apartment at the designated time, he greeted me at the door in his underwear and white socks. He was cute, mid twenties and very attractive. Had had a massage table in his candle lit living room, it was warm, comfortable and I knew what to do from this point. 

I removed my clothes, laid down on his massage bench and my heart was beating at a million miles an hour. Despite my hundreds of previous massages, this was the first time I’d taken my underwear off, I really didn’t know what was coming next. No pun intended. The massage began as all others had, this guy was good. We chatted a little as he rubbed me down. After about ten minutes I told him that he’d managed to relax me to a point where my heart wasn’t bursting through my chest. He paused for a moment with his hand on my back and asked, why my heart was racing. I told him this was the first time I’d had a massage like this. He chuckled in a sweet way and told me to relax and just go with it.

It wasn’t until about half an hour into the massage that he began to massage my inner thigh and then explore further that I realised why this massage was different. The next half an hour was the most mind blowing half hour of my life to date. What I was doing flew in the face of my values and Christian upbringing and what I thought to be right, that being the case, why did it feel so good?

I went over that question in my mind for days after. I’m not sure I really came to a conclusion, only that I knew I wanted to take it further. I wrestled this with my faith and came to the conclusion that regardless, I had to explore this and find out if this was who I really was. I’m not sure if that journey is the right one for everyone, but for me I needed the physical to match the mental. In other words, I couldn’t simply arrive at an intellectual understanding of my sexuality, I had to experience it.

A few weeks later I found myself heading to NYC for a two day conference. I managed to book into the W Hotel at Times Square. As a side note, it’s a fabulous hotel if you ever get the chance to stay there. Before going to NYC I managed to find a website that listed masseurs and their services by zip code. Each guy has a photo and an outline of their services and what they provide, I was looking for an erotic massage. That’s someone who has sex with you as part of the massage if you want. I wanted!

I found Andres, a Puerto Rican guy living in the US studying English and Nursing. As far as I was concerned this guy was perfect, plenty of bulging muscles, tattoos and very, very cute. The idea of finding a gay bar, trying to ‘hook up’ with some random guy seemed way to dangerous and I would have felt out of control. I was about to lose my virginity to this guy, I wanted to be in control of the situation. Paying an escort seemed to me to be the best possible way to do it.

I arrived at his apartment on 49th street, just three or so blocks from the hotel. When he opened the door my first impression was that he was far better looking than his photographs. For me, it was the Puerto Rican accent that tipped me over the edge. He was sweet, gentle and very kind. He offered me a glass of wine and we chatted for a little while. He was blown away that this was my first time with a guy, but at no point made me feel uncomfortable about that.

We started with a massage that tuned into so much more. I will be forever grateful to him for his gentle, sensual nature and respect for me. Perhaps meeting some guy at a bar or elsewhere may have been more romantic and have made a better story for this book, but this was perfect for me.

Over the next three months I saw Andres twice more, at this stage I knew I was gay, it had all come together. I figured that I enjoyed the sex, the intimacy and the closeness of another man. I had to be gay.
It’s interesting that through this whole period, I thought about my faith and I knew that the consequences of my behaviour would be significant, relative to Church. It would most likely mean excommunication. More about that later.

I never really felt guilty or felt bad about what I had done, if anything I felt relief, I felt calm about what I had done. I think I was finally at peace with who I was, this was the authentic me, the real me. During this three month period I was fortunate to have some very close LDS Church friends living in Cincinnati, about 45 minutes south of Dayton. I would spend most weekends with them and attend Church with them. My weeks were filled with sex and debauchery and my Sunday was at Church. I’m not an idiot, this really didn’t feel like something that could continue. One had to give way to the other, or at least I thought so. 

I spent the three months exploring, meeting guys and catching up for 36 years of pent up frustration. I spent a lot of time reflecting on the fact that I didn’t feel guilty while at the same time knowing that what I was doing was wrong according to the teachings of the LDS Church. Should I have been feeling guilty? In the context of an LDS Church member, yes I probably should have. I should have felt remorse and exhibited a desire to want to change, however at my core I knew I didn’t want to and more to the point I don’t believe I could and remain a sane adult.

For some people the argument about nature or nurture is one that will never be answered. My earliest memory of feeling affection for another person, was for a guy. I saw girls as great friends and good company, but I never wanted more from the friendship than that.

I tried for the longest time to conform to what others wanted of me and what I thought I wanted for myself. The LDS Church provided a positive framework for me as a 16 year old convert. My values were aligned to theirs, I enjoyed the company of members of the Church and I felt a closeness to Christ that I’d never felt before. Eventually the strong focus on family began to wear me down, the constant General Conference talks that spoke about couples and children were tedious when I knew I would never have what they spoke about or experience the joy associated with such relationships. 

These were not reasons why I chose to leave the Church, but they reinforced how I really didn’t belong in the Church. I understand the Brethren, Church Leaders, would say that I can live a full and happy life as an active member of the Church. The caveat being that I would have to be celibate and they would encourage me not to associate with members of the gay community.

At the point of writing this book I had stopped going to Church about four months earlier. I moved house which took me outside my local congregation and it was an easy choice to simply not attend my new ward. I’ve maintained communication with friends and spent last Christmas Day lunch with my old Bishop and his wife and friends.

Is my faith different because I’m gay? I don’t think my faith is different, the way I choose to have my faith manifest itself in my life is different. I still believe in the same Christ I always did, I still believe the President of the LDS Church to be a prophet of God. I’ve just chosen to walk a different path which I believe will bring me happiness now and I have faith that it will in the life to come as well.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

I finally said out loud to myself that I was gay

2.  I finally said out loud to myself that I was gay

It wasn’t so much a confession, I simply said during a prayer one evening, “Heavenly Father I’m gay and I’m really not sure what that means and what I can do about it.” I’ve always believed that praying out loud, being able to hear yourself as you pray, is very much part of the therapeutic process of prayer. That was the case with this experience, from memory I opened my eyes and looked up. I’m not sure what I was expecting to see, but I felt empowered, I felt like I’d come out of my own closet. Albeit still deep within a greater wardrobe. 

It was something I had thought about for many years, but to say it out loud helped me own the situation. I had to admit to myself who I was if I was ever going to be able to admit it to family and friends I was gay.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Is My Faith Different Because I’m Gay?

The expression of a person’s faith is a very personal thing. The perceived or real boundaries of Christianity can be restrictive and even smothering for members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) community. For me, the struggle came at three different stages. Firstly, when I wondered about my sexuality, secondly when I finally said out loud to myself that I was gay and finally when I decided to have sex with a guy. Let’s explore each of those three stages in a little more detail.

1. I Wondered about my Sexuality
Before I discovered the LDS Church, when I was about eleven years old, I found myself liking boys and seeing them as something different. At that age I didn’t really know about sex, I just knew that I found boys and men attractive. As a young kid I understood that many saw that as wrong and so it was something that I never talked to anyone about.

I was a latch key kid who spent many days at home alone during the school holidays, I watched a lot of movies and spent some time with friends. At some stage I came across two movies that I’ve lost count of how many times I watched them. One was “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and the other “Risky Business” with Tom Cruise. I loved these movies for two very different reasons.

I was infatuated with Tom Cruise, especially the scene where he slides into view wearing a white business shirt, boxes and white socks. In The Rocky Horror Picture Show, I saw a man called Frank-N-Furter who wore what looked like women’s clothes and he was making a man called Rocky, a guy he seemed to like a lot.

I knew every word to every scene and at 38 I think I can still quote a few scenes if needed at some obscure pub game. These movies and one other, “St. Elmo’s Fire”, enabled me to see alternative lifestyles from those I had been exposed to, I saw men in relationships with each other. The night I saw St. Elmo’s fire, I really struggled with the outcome of Andrew McCarthy’s character. He was gay and had fallen in love with a guy, but it was a love that would never happen. I think I was about 14 when I saw this movie, I went to bed that night and I remember crying in bed because I felt something of what that might be like.  Mum heard me crying and came into my room, she asked me what was wrong. I can’t remember exactly what I said, but I essentially said the movie had made me upset, I didn’t go into detail about why.

This phase of wondering about my sexuality continued until I was in my late twenties. I joined the LDS Church at 16 and this caused a distraction, but not for long. However the Church gave me a framework to manage my feelings and to compartmentalize parts of myself that I didn’t want to face or address at that stage.

This process was helpful and in some cases, for many months, I could happily move through life without thinking about guys. The Church teaches that celibacy can lead to a happy and fulfilling life, I do find it ironic that this council comes from a group of elderly married men. My struggle with this council is that I believe God created me as I am, I know he wants the best for me. If my homosexuality is a temptation, why after 38 years of trying to overcome the temptation am I no closer to putting it aside today than I was from the beginning? 

In addition, why do I feel the way I do in a relationship with a guy? I feel whole, I feel complete and most importantly I feel happy, at peace and I don’t feel guilty. There are those in Church who would explain this away because of my apparent disobedience, my behaviour has distanced me so far from the spirit, I can no longer sense that which is right or that which is wrong. Perhaps, but I disagree. From the LDS Church publication, “God Loveth His Children” we read:

“God assures His children, including those currently attracted to persons of the same gender, that their righteous desires will eventually be fully satisfied in God’s own way and according to His timing.”

I read into this a different meaning than perhaps the one the Brethren mean. I see that God loves his gay children as he loves all of his children. God is no respecter of persons, meaning he does not favour one child over another, all are equal before him. I’ve come to the conclusion that we really don’t know where gay children fit within God’s great plan of happiness. Given the quote above, I believe my righteous desires will eventually be fully satisfied in God’s own way and according to His timing.

Monday, February 8, 2010

How Does My Faith Manifest Itself In My Life?

Trying to explain faith to someone who doesn’t believe is a very difficult task, it’s almost like winking at someone on the dark. Some feel that Church’s have generally persecuted the gay community and why would any gay man want to be a part of that world. Others look to the Catholic Church, often seeing it as representative of all Christianity, and see their abuse of children and their treatment of gay priests and see nothing but hypocrisy. Perhaps their view is somewhat accurate. I want to point out here, that I feel saddened that a minority of Catholic priests have brought disgrace to a wonderful organisation which helps to uplift and inspire millions of people the world over.

Faith develops at different times for different people. There are those who grow up in a religious or spiritual environment and it’s simply a part of their makeup, it’s just who they are. There are those who discover religion later in their life, either as a teenager or perhaps as an adult. Finding religion and or spirituality is different to finding faith. Faith is a moving target, it grows over time. The growth usually comes about through the things we do. The New Testament teaches us that, “Faith without works is dead.”

I believe this to mean that you can’t sit on your couch and do nothing and call yourself a Christian. You need to be doing something about it, a friend of mine says that faith is a verb - it’s a doing word.

My faith guided my behaviour, it guided my decisions and the choices I made. I enjoyed that, it was like a framework to live by. However the reason I chose to live by that framework was because I had faith that Christ wanted me to live that way, I still do.

The challenge came for me when I could no longer mask who I was. This became the most poignant for me after dating a beautiful young women for two years. I felt deeply for her, but at no time could I see myself being intimate with her. She was attractive, intelligent, and filled with faith, but I knew this was not going to work. Breaking off that relationship was the most difficult thing I had ever done in any relationship I had been in.

It also meant acknowledgment to myself that I was gay, I wasn’t going to change. I don’t believe that any amount of faith or prayer was going to change who I was. Deceiving myself and possibly my girlfriend was reprehensible to her and unfair for me. I couldn’t do it, I could see myself at 45 with children and coming out to my wife because I just couldn’t do it any more. That wasn’t a future I wanted for her or I.

This period of my life was a tumultuous one, I found myself emotionally up and down constantly. These mood swings were largely unknown to those around me, remember I had become a master of masking my feelings, at least I thought so.

After breaking up with my girlfriend, I managed to get a job in Sydney and moved from Melbourne in Christmas of 2005. I moved back to an LDS Church congregation I had attended when I last lived in Sydney. I continued to be active in Church and it continued to be a big part of my life. 

Saturday, February 6, 2010

What Does it mean to have Faith? - continued...

For the first time in my life I was getting attention, very positive and pure intended attention, from men and this was combined with their teachings of Christ which I had been searching for, for some time. I need to make it very clear, never in my mind was there ever any thought of a sexual nature. That’s not what this was about, it was about the forming of some amazing friendships developed through a very personal journey and discovery of faith in Jesus Christ.

Once I made the decision to be baptised, which took me about 12 months, my focus and study of the gospel only intensified. Growing in a similar intensification was my attraction to guys, however I either consciously or subconsciously suppressed them for many years. At no stage had I shared these feelings with anyone, except my private journal. I don’t recall discussion at Church which condemned homosexuality, however I knew it was a sin according to the teachings of the LDS Church.

As I left high school and turned 18 it was time for me to think about serving a full time mission for the LDS Church. This would mean two years away from home and a strict lifestyle of celibacy and obedience to a series of fairly strict rules beyond that of the lay membership. I wanted to do it and so off I went, for two years. It was an interesting growth period.

After about six weeks in, I was wondering what on earth I had done. It’s not something I shared with anyone, just something I had to work out on my own. I stayed and completed my two years and received what’s referred to as a ‘honorable release’. It was an amazing experience, one that I will always treasure and be thankful for. I managed to meet many people from a variety of backgrounds, income levels and cultural origins. The unique thing about religion is that you get to talk to people on a very personal level, a level that you would never be able to do if you weren’t a minister of religion. It’s something about the white shirt and tie and the little black badge, people seem very comfortable opening up and sharing their most personal feelings and experiences.

I kept a fairly extensive journal from my two years as a missionary, looking back over it there are a couple of entries about my feelings of being gay and what that meant. Before I left on my mission, I made a covenant with God through prayer. If I was 100% obedient as a missionary, would he take away these feelings of homosexuality. I was probably 90% obedient, but the feelings remained. I think I explained away my lack of a miracle because of my lack of obedience. 

I’ve since realised that some challenges are with us for reasons beyond our ability to understand. Is my being gay a challenge? It certainly was at one point in my life, but since coming out it’s no longer a challenge, it’s just simply who I am. In the context of this book and faith within the teachings of Christ, homosexuality is looked upon as a grievous sin and one that equals adultery in its’ severity. Some Christian groups believe it to be much worse and some are less radical in their view.

As I met with my Bishop in a private meeting the last Sunday I attended Church he said, “If I understand you correctly, you simply don’t understand where you fit in?”. He was right, I don’t understand where I fit into Gods plan. I believe He has a plan for me, I believe that He loves me regardless of my behaviour or, what could be seen as, my sinful ways.  The Saviour taught us to love the sinner and despise the sin, if that’s his council to us, surely He lives by the same standard? With that love, why would he create me the way that I am and then not allow me to be who I believe I am?

Friday, February 5, 2010

I’m Gay and I have Faith

What Does it mean to have Faith?
“And now as I said concerning faith—faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true.” Alma 32:21
From as young as eight or nine I remember my mother exploring different forms of faith, mostly of Eastern origin. As a younger women she explored Western religions and aligned herself with the Church of England. I enjoyed the journey’s my mum took and I think the whole process exposed me to alternate ways of thinking and a more sensitive approach to the differences in people. Dad left when I was about three, I’ve not really had much to do with him, even to this day. That’s possibly a whole other book.

The big change for me came when we moved from the far south coast of New South Wales to Melbourne, Australia’s second largest city. There was a lot more to see and to be exposed to in a city that size.

It was probably soon after moving to Melbourne when I was about ten years old, I realised that I liked other boys. I’m not sure it was a conscious thing where I thought, “I’m gay” and I don’t like girls, I think I probably liked both. I do remember making out with an album cover of Leif Garret when I was eleven. I also remember having a crush on particular guys at high school as well as my P.E. teacher, I also had a crush on a few girls.

As a developing teenager this was a little confusing. The kids at school perhaps knew long  before I did, I was called a “poof”, “faggot” and many other things. I think I was a confident kid, I never really had a ‘group’ that I would hang with at school. For a couple of years, in my senior years, I had lunch with some of the teachers each day, the conversation was far more stimulating and interesting than mingling with the meat heads in the school yard.

I kissed my first girl in my senior year at high school, I was a later bloomer. It was nothing to write home about and I was probably more interested in a couple of the guys at the party where it happened, but nothing happened with the guys and nothing happened with her.

Midway through high school, I discovered The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). I was working part time at an Apple Computer store and the owners were members of the Church. They were a great group of guys and I worked there for about twelve months before I decided to learn more about the LDS Church.

Hindsight can often be a valuable and worthwhile exercise. As I look back over this period, I was 15 and 16 years old. The members of the Church introduced me to the full time missionaries whose job it is to teach those who are investigating the LDS Church. It was at this point that I started to have very mixed feelings about men. As a young man I was enjoying the attention of guys in their early 20’s, great guys whose motives were to simply share the gospel.

We had some very intense conversations, very deep and spiritual conversations which by their very nature bring you closer to someone than through normal discussions of politics, sports or economics. I said before hindsight can be valuable. Looking back now I think I had a merging of two needs in my life that somehow came together in an unusual way - keep in mind I was 15 and 16 years old.