Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Why I Wear a Mask: Past and Present

I've had an interesting 7 weeks since my last post.  I've been thinking about what it would be like to "live a maskless life", to not have to hide any part of who I am.  Through some recent experiences, I've realized that to some degree, I'll have to wear a mask no matter what I choose in life.  I long for a time where absolutely no mask is necessary.

5 years ago, I never would've dreamed of dating a guy or pursuing a relationship.  I never would've have allowed myself to hang out with other gay men because I was too worried that something might happen, that the temptation would just be too great.  For the past 34 years, I've been a church-goer and have enjoyed many aspects of the LDS church.  I don't think I'll ever fully let go of that and I certainly don't see myself being anti-LDS or angry.  I may get to the point where it's too painful to attend or where I don't feel there's a place for me, but I don't see myself cursing the church. 

So, in a sense, I've worn a mask all that time so that my church-going friends and family couldn't see this part of me that wants things that are contrary or different to what they want.  I've hidden that part of myself for the most part, but I have been blessed with some family and a few close friends who know I'm attracted to men.  But to them, I'm "struggling with same-sex attraction" and as long as I'm not planning to act on it, I'm still loved, righteous, and ok.

Recently, I've allowed myself to have some new experiences.  The other night, I hung out with 6 other gay men.  There was drinking and socializing and acceptance and connection.  All in all, I really enjoyed myself.  The guys were kind and interested.  I felt a sense of freedom I'd never felt where I could totally be myself.  But even in that group, there was a part of me that wanted to keep a different kind of mask on.  I still have mostly positive feelings toward the church and I still hold a lot of my experiences from my mission and growing up in the church near and dear to my heart.  I wore a bit of a mask that night because I feared that I might offend others because of my continued beliefs.  I'm sure a lot of the guys there had similar experiences and feelings and I probably would've been pleasantly surprised to hear how similar our experiences had been.

Long story short:  I feel the need to wear a "good Mormon boy mask" so that my LDS friends and family aren't burdened or aware of my gay journey.  It'll just make them sad because of what they feel I'm throwing away.  And on the flipside, I feel the need to wear a "gay mask" so that my new gay friends aren't offended or think that I'm not sympathetic to the strong feelings they have against the church.  I'm sure there are many gay, LDS men who still love the church and hold it in high regard.  And there are others who are so hurt and pissed about Prop 8 and all of that stuff.  I'm somewhere in between.

As I continue on in my journey, I'm sure the need to wear both kinds of masks will lessen.  I put a lot of this on myself, I realize.  I admire the guys who are 100% out and who are able to live that freely.  They may feel that there is ZERO need to wear a mask and I long for that.  But I'm still figuring out what I want and until I'm more clear on that, I'll continue to wear different masks.

I don't see this as being fake.  The good that comes of this is that I can try on new and different things to see what makes me happy.  I could either run right back to the church and commit to a meaningful, service-oriented life of following my spiritual convictions.  Or I could fully embrace the gay thing and find a wonderful man and find new ways to express my service and spirtuality.  The good news is:  I don't have to figure it out within an hour.  Until I'm more clear, I'm excited that I can choose to have new experiences with new people.  I feel confident that doing so will lead me closer to a resolution.

I would appreciate kind, supportive comments on either side. Go easy on the judgment as I'm just a guy in the world trying to figure things out.  The title of this post says "Past and Present".  I'm committed to not having to wear a mask in the "future", so I left it off.