07 November 2008

Listening

As I left the scene of GLO (Girls’ Lunch Out) this afternoon, I was hailed by a church friend I’ve gotten chummy with over the past season. It was interesting to see each other “away from the Establishment,” as he put it—interesting because he was in the mood to pour out some personal information, and I was in the mood to listen. Among other things, he talked about being gay (“You knew I was gay, right? Couldn’t you tell? I mean, didn’t you ever wonder?”) but quickly corrected himself and said he didn’t like to use that term because it tries to define who he is rather than simply what he feels, which is “same-gender attraction,” a passion he’s decided he no longer wants to indulge. He’s been clean, so to speak, for two years and some change. We knocked knuckles in celebration. Hey, we all have something we need to keep a lid on, he said, in essence.

He told me that he’s finally finished with trying to “do women”, and that being gay (the term remains for him a convenient if misleading shorthand) isn’t a bad thing. It isn’t wrong to simply feel what he feels. Feeling isn’t doing. He can be righteous; he can be close to God, and he’s relieved he doesn’t have to get married to achieve that. He’s moving to San Francisco in six months. I’m sorry he’s leaving. He said he needs to go somewhere he can make an actual living writing about art and culture. How will going there be for you, I asked, considering your resolve to abstain? He thinks it will work. He just has to get prepared in other ways, like laying aside the self-medicating he does to soothe his mental illness and loneliness. If he can quit “hitting the bottle” and get himself together and ready, he knows he can handle it. He has friends. He has a fabulous dog, “the dog of my life.”

He confessed to me that while he was still trying to do women, he spotted me at church and asked a friend’s wife, “Who is that—the one who looks like a university professor?” (Explaining to me: “I don’t like floozies.”) I was the one female, he said, who really did it for him. “But then, there was your husband,” he said, “so I guess it wasn’t meant to be.” I already knew he loves the actress Isabelle Huppert and that I remind him of her. (“She doesn’t even have to speak because she can communicate so well with her eyes.”) He told me that the woman who does it for him most of all is NBC’s Ann Curry. If he could get Ann Curry, things would be different. He stayed up all night once last week watching her on YouTube.

When we were about to part company I told him I was going to stop in to visit a friend downtown, someone I thought we both knew. “Is he cute?” he giggled. The name I dropped didn’t ring any bells, so I described the fellow as being slightly teddy bearish. My friend laughed at this, telling me there is a whole classification of gays called bears and described several of its subsets—almost too much information. He vehemently warned me away from Mister Bear pageants, and pride celebrations. “People take their kids to those! Children shouldn’t see some of that stuff. You shouldn’t see it. Nobody should. It’s way over the top.” His eyes grew strained as he spoke.

He feels that the Church is actually enlightened about gays, compassionate. He praised a talk by Apostle Jeffrey R. Holland. He is grateful, and hopeful. I am astonished by all my friend carries through life. I love him more than ever for this greater revelation of his intelligence, endurance, and faith. I understand deep wounds, the need for behavioral lids, and the surrender of certain aching dreams, but—honestly?—I have no idea. “People have been telling me,” he said, “‘Hey, man, I voted for you—I voted for Proposition 8!’” He shrugged at this, laughed ironically, and looked into my eyes, perplexed. “‘Why?’ I ask them, ‘I don’t want to marry a guy! Marriage is . . . marriage.’”

13 comments:

b. said...

Wow....just wow.

He's right to love you.
You're right to love him.

You had a much better afternoon than I did!

Sister Pottymouth said...

Talk about good karma...and you didn't even need a big jar like the restaurant had. No wonder he said, "Who doesn't love Geo?"


And I came home and sniffed my baby's neck and shirt for the rest of the day, inhaling deeply the scent of your perfume. It was delicious. Thank you.

compulsive writer said...

Great post. Thanks for sharing. Listening is such a great bridge into someone else's world. And you have a wonderful gift for it.

Oh, and in case I didn't tell you, I too love you.

Jennifer B. said...

Thank you for this.

wendy said...

Can I echo b.'s Wow?

One of my best friends for several years was gay. When we met at BYU he was trying to be straight. He also asked if I would be his girl (before I knew about the SSA). Something felt off, so I said no, wondered about my choice all through the holidays, and "got it" when I returned and he told me everything.

His type is Emma Thompson. He never did tell me I reminded him of her. I had never really thought through "what if I'd said yes" and it was never brought up again.

We stayed very close friends for a little over five years, through his coming out, rough partnerships, and a thankfully unsuccessful suicide attempt.

He talked about losing his testimony before he came out, but I always felt like he was throwing the baby out with the bath. I feel happy for your friend and for his choice. I hope he really can be strong in SF.

What a beautiful encounter.

Queen Scarlett said...

I love this.

I love that your friend has this "greater revelation of his intelligence, endurance, and faith".

He sees more than just the here and now. That is faith and courage. I hope he can stay strong in the midst of SF. I truly do.

Beautiful.

Jamie said...

I've had encounters like that before.

And then SF ate them alive.

Satan is so mean.

But this was a beautiful story...

Debra said...

Boy is this issue complicated in my head. I'm glad I'm not in charge. I'm also glad my sexual identity falls within "the norm" because I don't think I'd have the strength to handle the alternative with all its confusion and judgment. Takes a special person. And that person needs a special friend like you.

i i eee said...

I love conversations that immediately become stamped on our memory, conversations that we know even right when they are occurring that we will never forget them.

I wish him the very best.

La Yen said...

Thanks for sharing this. I wish I had more friends like you!

Elizabeth said...

I loved this, Georgia.

Inspiring, insightful, thought-provoking, lovely.

We need more love and acceptance and listening in this world, and I love it when these bridges happen.

J'oga said...

I LOVE THIS POST!

Thank you so much for sharing. I'd be curious to sit down and chat it up with this guy sometime. What a wonderful experience for you and for all of us to read about.

Chemical Billy said...

This story makes me sad, Geo. From over here on this side of the fence, in oh-so-scary San Francisco, I see through your words a very sad and conflicted person. I don't, personally, see the church's stance helping him become the most fully-realized person he can be.

I am glad that he didn't try to "do women" to the point of marrying one. I have never seen that lead to anything but pain and shame for both.

I suppose it's part of living provisionally in this world, with your eyes affixed on the next.

But for those of us who only live in this world, who feel it is necessary to make heaven here, it seems cruel of the church to keep from such a questing soul the means to his own heaven.

And even more so for the church to reach beyond its own doors, to forbid full citizenship (in secular institutions) to people who do not belong to the ranks of believers, who would have no reason to worry or care what happens within the church. Why, why reach out and say "for me but not for thee?"