Monday, December 9, 2013

From the Archives: Acting vs. Being Acted Upon

I have decided to occasionally republish selected posts from my original blog that I started when I first came out and wrote under the pseudonym Invictus Pilgrim. In the process of writing yesterday's post, I came across the following essay, originally published in December 2010, about 6-7 weeks after I first came out. I have edited it slightly.

One of the most important realizations that I have come to about myself in the past 2-3 months is that I am a person. I realize that can sound like a ridiculously simplistic and self-evident statement. But it’s not. For many, many years, I felt like I had abandoned my identity – both gay and otherwise – for the sake of making my marriage work.   

This abandonment was deliberate and was all part and parcel of buying into the Mormon Church’s teachings on homosexuality, marriage and eternal salvation. Essentially, I felt that if I was to be “cured” of my homosexuality, I had to surrender my gay self and “purge” it out of me through absolute dedication to my marriage and renunciation of any part of me that could be remotely linked to my gayness. In the process of doing so, I lost my Self. I ceased, in some important respects, being a person. In (Book of Mormon) scriptural terms, I ceased being something that “acted” and became instead something to be “acted upon.” [2 Nephi 2:26: “And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon … “]

This person who was “acted upon” became weak, hollow, mechanical, lost. Although he was able to “act” in certain areas of his life, when it came to his relationship with his wife, he was a re-actor, i.e., he was “acted upon.” He was hobbled and crippled by the belief that, at the very core of his being, there was something terribly wrong with him that could never be “fixed.” This belief left him weak, vulnerable and ready and willing to be “acted upon.”

This situation changed within the past several months. Through a series of “epiphanies” that began before the life-changing events of [October 2010 LDS] Conference weekend, I began to discover, rescue and resuscitate my Self. This process received a massive infusion of oxygen after [Quorum of the Twelve Apostles President] Boyd K. Packer’s conference talk ignited a chain reaction deep within me, bringing my Self out into the open, gasping for air after years in the dank, dark corner of a very large “closet.” 

It was through these epiphanies that I experienced “grace” in the terms expressed by Paul Tillich, a German Protestant theologian and Christian existentialist whom I had first encountered years ago when I was a freshman in college:

I could not possibly have found better words to express what I felt had happened to me.  Grace had come upon me. I felt my Self reuniting with itself. I felt empowered, affirmed, liberated, renewed, baptized even. This power is unlike anything I have felt before in my life. It is what is giving me strength as I face the challenges before me. It is what gives me hope in the face of what otherwise might seem hopeless. It is what gives me faith in the face of what might otherwise seem meaningless.  It is what has transformed me into a Person who acts, rather than being acted upon.

After reflecting upon my own experience and reading about those of others in a mixed-orientation marriage ("MOM") – both on my own blog as well as elsewhere, I believe that the key factor in determining the ultimate success of such a relationship is the degree to which the man (and the woman for that matter, but focusing here on gay men in MOMs) is a Person – in touch with himself, affirming himself, a person that “acts” rather than merely being “acted upon.” 

I thought this was reflected, for example, in Miguel’s comment [on a previous post] about when he told his wife that he couldn’t go on in their MOM:  “I don't think that my wife believed I would one day make the leap and accept that I was unhappy and wanted to move on when she'd bluff about 'what do we do, or where do we go from here?'. She was truly in shock when I told her I was done trying and she said: 'I was hoping you never had the courage to say those words.'"

Miguel decided to act, rather than merely be acted upon, and I found it telling that his wife used the word “COURAGE” – which I think speaks volumes about the relationship they had, which I can very much relate to.

This was also reflected in another comment:
“Too many couples, gay or straight, view marriage as something to 'get through,' as a 'trial.' It doesn't need to be that way. No, no relationship is perfect, just as no two people are perfect--but that doesn't mean that any of us need to settle for 'getting along.' The *right* relationship--and I mean, by 'right', right for you, the individual--is one that supports you, and nurtures you, and helps you grow into the person you want to be ... I would say emphasize that MOMs can work out fine. As long as both partners are willing and able to make it work, it will. It takes the basics of hard work, forgiveness, communication, patience, and sacrifice.” 
To this, I would add, “As long as both partners are being true to themselves, are functioning persons who each have a sense of Self, and who are each persons who are capable of “acting” in a fully self-conscious way.”

I wish all my brothers in MOMs – as well as all the rest of my gay brethren – grace and courage.  Grace and courage to act, rather than be acted upon.

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