Sunday, March 27, 2011


You know, I've been involved in this online community of struggling folks for about five years, and in that time I've developed some very close bonds. They are, in essence, the closest bonds that I have with anyone outside of my immediate family. This was especially true after joining an accountability group on Facebook, where I was able to "meet" several people I had known on my blog for years, and attach names and faces to situations and personalities that I already knew about in writing. These online friendships led to real-life ones, and I visited several of these people while on a road trip this past summer. In fact, I don't think I would be in Baltimore at all if it wasn't for the fact that the closest of these friends was a student here, and encouraged me to apply to the school I now attend. In short, these have been some very important friendships to me, but I'll also admit that these friendships have been extremely challenging in the past. I don't think it's unfair to say that I go out of my way to please people, and like I've said on this blog, I've had a lifelong obsession with finding a place to belong.

Well, when I first found this online community, and especially when I joined the Facebook group two years ago, I felt I had finally found my place to belong. Unfortunately, my views at the time were rather liberal and unorthodox, and the fact that I have a pretty polemic, abrasive personality meant I was in conflict with folks quite a lot. As tough as I tried to appear, this was pretty much torture to me. Here was my place to belong, and yet I felt like a constant outsider because I didn't go to Exodus conferences, I didn't really buy into a lot of the theories about orientation causation or change and my political views were more libertarian than the standard religious conservative's. So I argued a lot, and if anyone reading this ever got into an argument with me back then, they know that I could get extremely passionate. I still can, really. Why, just the other day I was talking to a friend online, who got tired with the argument and signed off quickly. I kept calling him and calling him after that, until he eventually blocked my number. We've since reconciled and I definitely know that my behavior was out of line, but it's just an example that serves to illustrate this point: I totally realize I can be a lot to handle sometimes.

I am still human, though, and I do think that I have put in a lot of time and effort into these relationships. Frankly, I've put in more time and effort into online relationships and my own introspective, reflective writing than I have to bonds in the real world. Of course, I still have a lot of friends and acquaintances in "real life." I think I can be fairly affable in person, although I'm a little eccentric and not above being awkward. But like I said a few posts ago, I'm a writer. I see myself and think of myself as a writer, and even if I'm not a good writer, even if I'm never published or successful in that particular field, the fact remains that I express myself best through the words that I write, not the ones that I say. Therefore, the people who know me best are those who know my writing. Short of reading all the short stories, unfinished novels, journal entries and other notes I've compiled over the years, the best way to get to know who I am as a person is to simply read both my old blog and this current one, and also to talk to me through e-mails, Facebook messages and chats. You'll get to know me better than you would if you knew me in person, where I think I can be very polite and presentable, but not much else.

The odd thing is that, over the course of the past few years, I changed a lot about myself. Oh, sure, I'm still a lot to handle, but my views on issues really did change. I'm not going to say I'm totally a fan of Exodus, but my position has moderated extremely from where it once was, mainly because I've come to know people who are actually involved in Exodus. In essence, I've become a lot more conservative than I once was. I don't know why, exactly. Examining motivations like this is pretty difficult, if not totally impossible, but I know that I used to share a lot of anxieties with people, telling them that I felt like an outsider in the group because of my more liberal views. I do think that, although I think conservatism is pretty logically consistent anyway, I wouldn't have sought to change myself if I wasn't seeking after approval and acceptance from friends.

That's why the recent situations with several friends who have gotten boyfriends have been so difficult. I felt like I made myself a conservative just to win their friendship, and I went through so many arguments, tantrums, anxieties, etc. Just when I felt like everything was going swell, I feel like I've been rejected again. I'm back to square one, because they're all liberal and I'm the one holding onto conservatism. That's just really hard. I usually try to write a little more clearly, but what else is there to say? It's hard. I changed a lot about myself for other people, even moving to another city for other people, and now I'm left without them. Oh, sure, many may say we're still friends, although others have made it clear that we're not, but the fact remains that the personal renovations I did to myself have now, well, seemed to have been for absolutely nothing. I don't think anyone consciously asked me to change myself, nor do I think anyone consciously used me, but that's how I feel: Spent and used. And I'm very tired. I know I'll get up tomorrow, and things will keep going, and writing this out tonight has helped a little. But, man, I'm just really, really tired. And I'm trying to figure out why I'm still fighting like I do.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Life has both calmed down and sped up considerably recently, which can explain the lack of blogging around here. On the one hand, I feel that I've calmed down recently, at least emotionally. Okay, I did have one pretty epic outburst (which I'll get to later) but for the most part my days pass by without much incident. I have a few depressing hours every now and again, and I might even be in one while writing this, but I've become quite amazed by the world's unflinching ability to keep going, whether I feel happy or not. I think God has given me the resolve to keep going along with it, and I thank him for that. On the other hand, I have been really busy recently. I work almost every day, I have a lot of things to read for class and I'm already starting to develop ideas for my thesis. I just signed up for summer courses, I have to write two more short stories to complete my coursework this semester, I wish to revise and edit the two that I've already written, I am applying for teaching jobs in Baltimore and I also have a strong desire to go through my old blog and edit each post for grammar, punctuation and precision. I know, my perfectionism knows no bounds, right? Yesterday I looked at the journal that I've been keeping since college. A large part of me wanted to buy a new blank volume and re-transcribe everything I had written in it, word for word, since I deemed my handwriting in freshman year to be too sloppy.

Perhaps that last anecdote is indicative of my emotional state for the last few weeks. Aside from all the busyness, there has been an undercurrent of fear. Oh, sure, I've had great times in the midst of everything. I visited a good friend in West Virginia, and had a great weekend. I walked around Baltimore on a spectacularly sunny day and took pictures with another friend of mine. I've gone to dinner with friends, read great books, had great conversations on the phone with my mother and have basically carried on the routines of a normal, healthy life. However, I can't fully let go of the past. I still have a lot of emotional anxieties related to that horrible month of July, a full seven months ago. In many ways, I still feel like I'm living in the postlude of that month, since the relationships that were lost then still reverberate very heavily in my heart. Even though I know that my mental health has improved greatly, and my life seems to be on track to any outside observer, I still have so many fears and anxieties related to what happened then. I know, I haven't really blogged extensively about that time period in my life. There are a lot of issues involved there, the greatest of which is the desire to protect the privacy of myself and others, and I just haven't had the time to begin the delicate process of examining this past summer in a public way that would be both fruitful and respectful to all parties involved.

To make a long story short, though, I still fear the same things I feared then. Namely, I fear losing the people in my life. When friends who you love and trust, and who say they love you in return, abandon you, it's extraordinarily difficult, for me, at least, to recover. I still haven't. Every relationship that I've made since, I feel that I've only put half of my heart into it. I'm afraid of people getting to know the real me, because I'm afraid that once they do, they'll want to pull away, just like a good friend did in July. Worse, people who I haven't talked to in awhile... I feel that they are avoiding me purposefully. Even though I know that folks drift apart naturally over time, ever since this summer I've been paranoid about my personal relationships. If someone doesn't talk to me, even if they say they're busy, I fear that it's due to an indictment against my personality. I assume they don't like me. This is especially true with regards to anyone who I had conflict with, or who was connected to the issues and broken relationships I had over the summer. Trust me, this isn't a really pleasant way to feel. Cognitively, I know that it's not rational and that it's not even true. Emotionally, however, it's intensely sad and almost crippling at times. I've learned to cope with it and continue living, but I would really like it to be gone, to be perfectly frank.

I suppose in order to clarify what I consider abandonment, I guess I should define what I consider to be personal closeness. That's difficult to do, however. In truth, I've had a difficult time recently trying to bring clarity and precision to my own definitions and premises. I know what I believe when it comes to God, Christianity, the Bible, politics, etc. However, I know that my fear of losing people often keeps me from saying those beliefs boldly and clearly. I'll easily hem and haw about a subject if I fear that the person will no longer want to spend time with me should they ever learn what I truly think. There's no other term for this attribute of myself than sheer cowardice. Similarly, I can keep my emotions repressed for awhile, in order to simply enjoy the artifice of someone's company. However, neither of these repressions can last for long. One example should serve as a model for any. A friend of mine, a fellow struggling guy, recently started dating a guy. Although he had been trending towards this position for awhile, I told him that I would support him and be his friend no matter what. On the surface, those words are still true. I do still consider myself his friend, and I do support him. Naturally, though, I want to support the decisions that will ultimately lead him towards Christ, not away from Christ. That wasn't clearly implied in our earlier conversations, and in fact, I willfully kept it hidden because I feared coming on too strong about the dangers of approaching gay-affirming theology would cause me to lose the friendship.

Ultimately, when I learned that he did indeed have a boyfriend, both my emotions and opinions burst forth, and they weren't tempered in any way. I'll be the first to admit that I made an awful show of it. I was harsh and abrasive, condescending and rude, and even though I do think that heaven and hell are absolute, literal realities and that unrepentant sin is a sign that a believer, well, isn't a believer at all, I think I was more "fire and brimstone" than I ever had been. That's saying a lot. The conversation was heated and I haven't talked to him for the past two weeks. I hope we can reconcile, and of course I have an absolutely crippling fear that we won't. I just realize that a lot of this would have been avoided if I was more consistent and honest with what I believe from the start, rather than letting it burst forth when, really, it was too late to change his mind. Not only that, but I fear for him. I remember a post that was posted on Revelife recently, where the author reviewed the fascinating Lisa Ling documentary about the ex-gay and gay Christian movements. He mentioned something about one of the struggling men interviewed for the show: "After seeing his tear-rimmed eyes, I could never be convinced there's not something Special rooted deep inside him, beckoning him to abandon himself for something far greater."

I have met many men and women who have cried, who were passionate about their commitment to God and the denial of their feelings, who seemed beckoned to abandon themselves for Christ... Many of them have helped me on my own path, and have kept me fighting when I didn't feel like fighting anymore. The friend who broke ties with me in July, and the friend who I recently shouted at for having a boyfriend, they're both very significant to me for that reason. The first, though I know next to nothing of what he's up to, is still fighting, I hope. The second, I fear, is giving up. And if he has, I fear that that love of Christ I sensed in him might not have been there at all. I know I shouldn't judge. I really know nothing about the state of one's eternal soul on this side of eternity. However, I can't pretend that that's not what is at stake, here. God didn't call us out of homosexual behavior simply because celibacy or heterosexual marriage are so much nicer. He called us out because our sins bring his wrath. If we love him, we are to keep his commandments. Sure, we'll stumble. We'll hem and haw about our convictions, we'll sometimes lose our battles with the flesh, we'll have moments of pride, anger, doubt, lust, jealousy... But we'll be committed to winning the war, despite all of that, won't we? To succumb to the flesh in a moment of weakness is one thing. To rationalize and justify sinful behavior, and even claim that it is a gift from God, is quite another, and is a sign that one might not be truly saved, despite how much they tugged at our heartstrings while they were still fighting.

That's why I fear for friends when they begin slipping away from this struggle. There are many things I may admire about them. I have nothing but respect for those who stand in the face of public opposition, and who are willing to be who they are despite the fact that they may lose friends. I know many ex-ex-gays, as they're called, have lost a lot, and they have my fullest sympathy in that regard. And I know that simply having a boyfriend doesn't mean you're bound for hellfire. I think it's pretty established that our stories are complex and tumultuous. I've had a boyfriend once, and I've stumbled more times than I'm usually willing to admit. However, I think there's a genuine cause for concern, isn't there? When someone is driving towards a bridge that you know is going to collapse, you want to hold up warning signs, don't you? You fear for their safety, and you'd rather that they stop far away from the bridge, rather than have a near-miss, right? That's how I feel about this. I fear for those drivers. I don't want to see them plunge into the cold waters beneath the bridge.

The only difference is, by saying this sort of thing, I'm holding up the warning sign. Even if my methods of holding it up are abrasive and rude, and I wouldn't disagree with anyone who said that those are dominant personality traits of mine, I'm still holding it up and doing something that, I think, is ultimately loving. But the drivers who hear it might not see it that way. They might hate me for it, and abandon me as a friend. I fear that, too. I fear it so much.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


I think one of the most persistent, consuming themes of my life is an overall desire to belong somewhere. It's certainly been one of the most dominant themes of the past few months. While my old blog was focused more on my struggles with homosexuality, and my opinions about gay rights and the ex-gay movement, I think I've finally discovered what I want this blog to be about: The struggle to belong. It's something that I've been thinking about quite a lot recently, and I think it's something that many people who struggle with same-sex attractions, and many Christians in general, struggle with and can relate to.

I've always belonged to several things. I've belonged to my family, I've belonged to the small and somewhat insular community that is my hometown, I've belonged to several organizations and groups in my college days. Most recently, and perhaps most importantly at the moment, I've belonged to this strange but simultaneously wonderful community of online Christians, brothers and sisters who struggle with same-sex attractions. I don't think it's a stretch to say that I've put more effort into belonging in this online community than I have in my real life communities. I suppose there is a reason for that, which I wish to discuss here.

I've always considered myself a writer, first and foremost. Am I a good writer? I don't know. I don't think I'll ever get published. The competition for publication is extreme. But that's a little beside the point. The fact is, I express myself better through writing than I ever could in person. When asked to describe myself, I'll often say that I'm loud, obnoxious, opinionated and outspoken. Real life friends would look at that and think, "What? You're one of the most mild-mannered people I know." I think online friends could nod along in agreement. That's because my writing style is pretty blunt. I don't dress things up and I don't hem and haw. I usually say what I think without many qualifiers.

This creates a certain level of tension. I see myself in the same way I see my writing. When I was in high school, I wrote fantasy novels and short stories. They were horrible by conventional standards, but they gave me worlds I could live in and worlds I enjoyed. They gave me worlds where I belonged. Similarly, I think my journals, blog posts, Facebook chats and comments from the past few years have been, in my head, the world where I felt I most belonged. But that kind of thing can only last for so long... At least, that's what I've been discovering recently.

One of the biggest struggles of the past few months, which have been among the most painful and harrowing months of my life, has been feeling like every place where I once belonged is being ripped out from under me. A friend raised the hypothetical question of whether or not God is ripping everything out of my life in order to get me to rely more fully on him. We'll see about that. Hopefully as I make the discoveries, I can get some good feedback from my friends on here. Thank you all for your support and wisdom.