Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Folk Dancing Made Me Gay

My first year in college I was on the institute’s folk dance team at Weber State University. Last night while lying in bed, for some unknown reason, I recalled visions of my last performance before leaving for my mission. Those were some strange times – the moving out of my house and for the first time living on my own in the dorms, the figuring out who I was and what my attractions meant, the first time I got hit on by another guy, the costume changes in the locker room during that last performance.

But then I thought of something jolted me out of my almost sleep. I was recalling all of the people I had met, trying to remember the names and the faces, when suddenly I remembered two individuals – one whose name was Josh, whose face I can’t remember, and another whose name I can’t recall but whose face is rather vivid. While lying in bed I remembered a moment in the locker room where these two men smiled at me while we were all changing, and told me that I did a good job.

They were seniors, and I was a freshman. This compliment, given while in nothing but our garments, meant a lot to me, and I had almost totally forgotten about it.

But what woke me up was that in that dream-like state I connected that compliment to something my counselor said to me while I was in a reparative therapy program – that as gay men we seek approval from other men, and that if we form strong friendships and get that approval in “non-sexual ways” we could control our attractions to the point of sending them into oblivion, or at the very least, learn how to manage them.

And I wondered if there was some truth to that, recalling how I felt when these two men complimented me.

I was awake for the next little while thinking about that, and I’ve come to the following conclusion: Yes, we as gay men DO seek the approval of other men, but I don’t think that lack of approval from men is a cause of being gay, but rather as gay men we just seek such approval more voraciously.

The more I thought about it, the more it made sense.

Sometimes I think the church, counselors, and others like to put the “causes of homosexuality” into a little box. How many times have we heard that homosexuality is caused by an overbearing mother, a distant father, and the inability to connect with other men - or an inferiority complex when it comes to “manly things” at puberty, or an unnatural desire to be a different kind of man than we are, which then leads to sexualization of those characteristics. How about the inability to make male friends? Blah blah blah.

I guess I fit into some of that mold. My mother is and has always been rather strict. My dad was in the military when I was young and was constantly away. My mom did a good job of keeping us entertained so we wouldn’t miss him though. Still, I always knew he loved me, and we spent some quality time together.

But I never had any trouble making male friends. I had four very close male friends all through junior high and high school, and many others who weren’t as close. I never lacked male companionship, and had all the usual “boy” experiences (the friend who found his dads porn stash, the friend who was into hardcore sports, the friend who had an amazing testimony of the church, and the best friend who has always been right by my side). I was into “boy” things, starting with Link-in logs and tinker toys, moving on to robotics, engineering, science, math. I never dealt with a lack of approval from my male friends.

So why did the approval of these two senior dancers mean so much to me?

Let me summarize: They were two senior men, rather attractive, in their underwear, complimenting the little freshman gay boy. Is it really hard to understand?

All men like to be recognized by beautiful people. I’m sure if a beautiful woman in a bikini complimented a straight guy no one would analyze why that compliment meant something to him, so why should gay men get preoccupied or feel badly about being happy when another good–looking man builds our self-esteem?

I’m not sure if this midnight epiphany means much other than to remind me of how I’m still conditioned to think like a good little LDS boy in therapy, but I’m glad I was able to think my way through this one, and come to a conclusion other than “my therapist was right, I’m gay because I seek out the approval of other men.” In fact, I appreciate the approval of other men because I’m gay, just like a straight person would appreciate the approval of members of the opposite sex because they are straight.

So pretty much I stayed awake for nothing...

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