Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Insights and Progress

It has been almost a year since we started this new experience. My own studies have actually been only the last 9 months or so. I feel like I‘ve learned a lot, but I know it’s not nearly enough. I want to learn more, I want to do more, I want to be ABLE to do more.

There is a young man in my ward who deals with SSA. Let’s call him Arthur. I was only the third person he has told. We have become friends and visit often. We have shared experiences and feelings. Through Arthur, I have been able to learn much more about SSA, for men. Hear are some things I have learned.

1. Pain. Those in the church who deal with SSA typically go through a lot of internal, mental, emotional, psychological anguish. The dichotomy between the gay lifestyle and the teachings of the church is almost too much to accept. Many leave the church, or at least do not live the gospel. The few who completely give in to the gospel, though, end up much happier and with many more blessings. I look at my 2 favorite examples – Tito and Smurf. Even aside from the SSA issue, these are guys worth knowing. They might still have some of the pain of SSA, but they have learned to deal with it. They now control the SSA in their lives, it does not control them. Certainly this must help to ease some of that pain.

2. Actions are what matter. Feelings and inclinations come to us naturally. It takes long, hard work to be able to control those things. Even then, I don’t think they can be controlled completely. I think much of this work also has to do with some of our choices. The feelings of SSA come to men naturally and that itself is not bad. It is what we DO with these feelings that matters. Men with SSA can live worthily, hold callings, go to the temple, and have the guiding Spirit in their lives. It IS possible and so much more important for them. As for all of us, it is what we DO that counts.

So Arthur has confided in me some things he has learned lately. These things have given him and me some insight and understanding into his SSA. Granted, everyone is a little different, but this has helped him make some progress.

1. When he was a kid in grade school the other kids teased him, calling him a name associated with homosexuality. None of them really understood it much at the time, but he grew up gradually gaining the understanding of the name. This led Arthur to be overly sensitive of anything that might associate him with homosexuality. Consequently, he went a bit too far, especially around other guys. This, he believes, affected the development of his manhood, leading to SSA. Avoiding the issue actually made it more evident.

2. Recently Arthur came to my office to visit with me. He had a new breakthrough. He realized that the guys he had crushes on were guys that had qualities that he wanted. Arthur is very athletic, working out all the time, and competing in triathlons. These guys were built better, or faster, or whatever better than he was. They were people that he wanted to be like. Arthur even realized that he once kind of had feelings for a woman that he thought was a better triathlete than him. Then he beat her in a race, and the feelings left.

3. In this recent visit, he also told me that he has finally confessed to another friend. He first made sure that the guy was absolutely straight – no SSA feelings whatsoever. Arthur is deathly afraid of getting together with another SSA guy. The friend accepted him, no rejection. From there, they were able to talk about “What it’s really like to actually have feelings for a girl”, and other stuff. This did 2 things for Arthur. First, the acceptance reassured him that he’s alright, SSA is not a horrible thing. Second, he’s able to now look forward to a possible romantic relationship with a girl, and thinks that it will be okay.

The main point is that he found things that contributed to his SSA and reasons why he has feelings for other guys. I think some people call these “triggers.” This understanding has helped him to separate the SSA feelings from his other feelings, putting them off a little, giving him hope that he might eventually be rid of them. By identifying these elements of his life and character, he can move forward. The understanding has given him power.

Arthur is truly blessed. Though the experience is a little different for each guy, I think the basic principles are the same, especially the first one listed at the top of this post. I am sure that Arthur has only been blessed with this progress because of his faith and dedication to the Gospel, because of his commitment and covenants. He still has bad days once in a while. We all do. But he has more good days now, and those days are getting even better. And I am too.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Blood Sport

It’s Christmas time. The semester ended today. The remaining students from the singles wards got together on Friday night. There was food, camaraderie, social mingling, lots of fun. There was also some pretty amazing violence. People went to the hospital, ER.

A couple weeks ago I mentioned to my ward leadership that maybe we should have a ward Christmas party. All the family wards in town were doing it, why not us too? We could do it on Friday, after all the finals were over. Other Bishops said, “No one will be here. Everybody goes home when their finals are done.” I polled some students. There would be some here, 10-20 or so from our ward. That’s enough for me.

My Elders Quorum President had a different idea. (This is the guy who wore a ‘Hooters’ t-shirt to FHE one time.) He said, “We were thinking we would have and EQ activity that night, kind of a man-building thing.” I asked, “Could we turn it into a ward activity? Get some food? Hang out?” “Sure. We could do that. We are gonna have our fight night too. We can also invite the Relief Society to fight”, he says. Great.

So the EQ offers to host the ward activity. They planned the food, arranged matches (guys AND girls), and got the gloves and headgear. I wasn’t sure what to think about the fights, but at least we could kind of get together as a ward and hang out, relax. I figure it would be either something that would be great and we should do it more often, or we should ban it all together and never consider it again. One little problem – my daughter has her Christmas music program at school that night. Bummer. I figure I will just show up late to the activity, if I make it at all.

Friday night comes. We all go to Tabitha’s Christmas music program at 6:15, then to Kinko’s to copy some music for Sam, then home. I tell the family I’m going to the Institute to check on my ward activity. It’s about 7:30, the activity was to start about 7:00, which means I’m actually only about 10 or 15 minutes late. First thing to see, a few people and the food. They deep fried 2 turkeys and roasted a third. They also had all kinds of salad, baked French fries, various potato chips, pink lemon-aid, and cookies. Plenty of food, good food. I have been DYING to try some fried turkey. Sure enough, it’s awesome.

I missed the first fight. It was a “chick fight”, two roommates, one husky, the other very tall. I see the husky one and she explains that she is one her lunch break and had to get back to work so they had to go first. I go into the expanded classrooms to check the fights. It’s PACKED – about 80 or 90 people are there! All 4 wards came. Cool. As for turn-out, the activity is a huge success. And everyone seems to have a great time.

The fights are a different story. It’s brutal, ugly, scary, riveting! We cannot help but watch. People actually are getting HURT! I notice before long that the big guys, over 200 pounds, don’t seem to react so violently when a glove connects with their heads. Under 200 pounds, it’s just really scary and violent. People are getting knocked down, heads are snapping back, sweat and spit are flying. Fortunately, most of them are wearing mouth guards. In all, there were probably about 15-18 matches, including about 5 girl matches. They usually go do 3 one-minute rounds. There were LOTS of OH’s and OU’s from the audience.

There were about 6 bloody noses, which ended those matches on the spot. It was not at all pretty, especially when the girls were pounding each others brains out. The headgear didn’t seem to help much. It did help to create more sweat so that when a glove connected to someone’s head, there was a better visual effect. There was a lot of pain. Everyone complained of headaches, internal bruising, aching neks and arms, and lots of general soreness, etc. As of this writing, 48 hours later, even new pains were making themselves evident in some people.

The worst injury was a pretty severely broken nose. Blood gushed pretty well initially. It started out as a messy blob on his face. After a while of lying on a couch with ice, a lot of the swelling went down, and the nose was somewhat straight. It was just off to the right side about a half an inch, not matching up in the middle between his eyes. Uggghhhh…gruesome! It took a while to convince him to go to the hospital, but he did go. Today at church, he has 2 semi-blackened eyes, and an offset nose. They won’t set it for another day or so. Most of the others are still complaining of aches and pains too. But everyone raved about what a great activity it was. Go figure.

Many people taunted me, wanting me to fight. One of the older girls in my ward offered me $10 to go the 3 rounds with someone. Hearing that, someone else said he would add another $10 to that. Nothing could convince me.

I realized something important late Friday night. If the Church legal department heard about this, the walls would come crashing down. The legal liability issues could be outrageous. They would NEVER approve, and would probably take strong action to make sure it didn’t happen. Whew! Good thing it’s over and no one seems to being sewing!

Camaraderie happened. People bonded. Students were fed. There is a lot more respect in the Institute. They kept the blood off the carpet. There were even some surprising upsets. It was a well-attended activity with plenty of enjoyable food. This particular activity will never happen again. I don’t think I could handle the stress. Fight Night – kind of cool, but not worth the risk. Don’t fall for it.