I’m Going To Hug You.

My friend Will has known about my struggle with homosexuality for four and a half years now.  He was the first friend that I opened up to and since then he has walked faithfully with me on this journey.  I cannot express how much his friendship means to me and how much I appreciate the grace and love he has shown me over the years.

Our relationship has not been without challenges.  While I knew that Will would always be there for me, for almost four years I never felt as though he was able to grasp what I was going through or the magnitude of my struggle.  Slowly our relationship became strained as he met a girl, got married, and moved forward in life.  While I was overseas, I prayed for months asking God to rekindle and develop a new depth in our friendship.  Upon returning, I had just finished reading A Bigger World Yet by Tim Timmerman, a book which I believe is the best and most impactful out of the books on same sex attraction.  Not only does the book go into the struggle and needs of the individual struggling with S.S.A., but it also speaks to the church and the role that the church should be playing to provide community, hope, and love.  I decided to pass the book on to Will to see what he thought.

Initially I was scared about how Will would respond to the book.  It is in a sense, an open confession of the needs and insecurities of those who struggle with S.S.A.  As much as I have been honest and vulnerable with him, there were certain needs or feelings that I would never feel comfortable expressing.  For instance, despite my need and desire for physical touch, there was no way I could share that with a straight guy.  However insight from the book triggered the biggest turn in our relationship and and God has used it to bring our friendship to a new level of depth and understanding.  By describing the life of one who struggles with S.S.A. so clearly and the impact that a straight man can have on that person, Will finally was able to recognize and comprehend all that I had been trying to explain for the past four years.

Right now we are at a place where we both are trying to figure out how this looks for Will to walk this journey with me.  As he is trying to he apart of my life, I am having to learn to set aside my own pride and be open about my thoughts, feelings and needs.  It has been real hard and I have a lot to learn still.  As we met tonight, one of the things we talked about was physical touch and how important it can be used to express acceptance and love.  Physical touch has never been apart of our friendship, and in as much as I desire it, I don’t want anything forced.  It would only make things awkward.  Furthermore, even while he is already aware of my need, it is still a struggle to actually admit such feelings.  Despite my pride, he spoke a lot of truth into me and reassured me that no matter how awkward it may be, he was willing to walk with me through all of this.

As we prepared to go our separate ways, he came up to me and just told me  “I’m going to hug you and from now on when we meet, we are going to hug.”  That simple action meant so much to me.  While I am still in the process of trying to understand how others can walk this journey with me, I think the bottom line is I really appreciate when others take initiative.  I can always share my needs and others can do their best to help out, but for him to step out and just let me know that he cares had a huge impact on me.

Sometimes ups, out number the downs…

There are some days where I feel as though I was finally able to take one step forward.  Today was one of those days.  I had some good time doing devotions, reflecting and listening to God.  I was reminded of the importance of repentance.  I was reading in Romans 2 and it started me thinking about how we should not be in a place of judging others, but rather when we find ourselves judging, it is a good time for us to be repentent of our own sin.  After spending some time confessing and repenting of my sin, it was only natural to then turn to God and worship Him for the grace and mercy He has shown to someone as sinful as me.

On a negative note, I feel as though every time I make progress or start getting on the right track, the devil works overtime to get me back off of it.  About 5 months ago I finally got out of a unhealthy relationship with a guy.  It was a relationship that had a lot of potential for both of us to grow in our faith together.  We both struggled with homosexuality and initially we found a lot of areas of common experiences or shared feelings.  However, as we grew closer, the physical relationship because stronger and eventually I got caught up into a sinful lifestyle.  We never had sex, but came close many different times.

Anyways, despite the sin we were living in, it was the first time for me to experience such a deep intimacy and actually love someone.  It has been extremely difficult since cutting ties with him to not long for that intimacy again.  Even though it has been 5 months, he comes to mind almost every day.  It takes everything in me to not dwell or fantasize about the things we did together.  Usually I fail.

I just hope that I can continue to stay strong in the midst of all of this.  I am at a lonely place and so my desire for love, attention, and community is constantly there.  Some days I wonder if coming back to Southern California was even the right move… however I have to trust that God’s going to open the doors, help me meet the right people, and bring about good out of this life.

Merry Christmas… thank you God.

Hello World.  Merry Christmas.

Praise God for on this day He sent his one and only Son, humbled in a pitiful and limited physical body, to save our sorry little asses to show that He loves all of us… a perfect and complete love for all of us homosexuals, fatties, narcissists, coveters, adulterers, haters, racists and sinners.

Happy Birthday Jesus.

I am my own pastor, mentor and confidant

Unemployment, couch surfing, holiday season, and several other chaotic elements seem to be contributing to me not particularly enjoying where I am at in life at this moment.  I know from past experiences that these rough times will pass, however in the current moment, I feel as though I am drowning.

During these times, I find myself becoming the victim in every situation.  I can’t help but look at my situation and start feeling sorry for myself or start blaming others.  Having been gone for so long, my desire for community has continued to grow and develop and now that I have returned, it simply isn’t there.  I have made my desires known to some friends and I am realizing that in many ways I might not be willing to commit to community myself.

I am staying at my friend’s apartment right now and because of the Christmas season as well as her job, usually the apartment is empty.  I find such great relief when I finally get back and don’t have to deal with anyone.  It might be that I am getting use to being alone and so I simply prefer to not have to deal with people, but in reality I think it may be because I don’t want to exert the effort needed to develop the community that is essential for my growth and healing.  As I struggle with homosexuality, I recognize the value in community, however I think that most people rely upon romantic relationships to make them feel fulfilled and so they rarely feel the same need as I do.  I think in the long run that can be detrimental.  I have to recognize that I might have to do all of the work and keep pursuing others even though they don’t feel the need for community nearly as much as I do…  I wish that for once I would be pursued by others, rather than me having to do the pursuing.

What sucks is that I am going to have to make an intentional choice to continue to put my neck out to seek community.  As easy as it is to sit at home and find sanctuary in an empty apartment, time and time again, I fall to the temptations and demons inside of me.  I see myself as the victim and then justify indulgence into my desires.  I need to change how I view myself.

Henri Nouwen writes about the need to tell one’s story from a distant place where it no longer dominates you.  It is easy to dwell on the present sufferings and trials and to continue to go back to past failures and pains.  I need to remind myself of the truth and not let me feelings and emotions to control and dictate how I view the situation I am in.  I have to keep preaching to myself the words that I wish to hear from others.  Maybe someday I will be in a community where I can rely on others more, but until then I have to be the pastor, the mentor, and the confidant for myself.  When you lack the community needed for growth and accountability, what are other areas or ways you hear the needed truth that is so often invisible in the midst of difficult times?

Gotta love Holmes and Watson

Last night I went and watched the new Sherlock Holmes movie with my siblings.  I don’t really want to get into critiquing movies on this blog, but I honestly had a ton of fun watching the movie and would recommend it.  I love the humor and wit exhibited by the characters as well as the quirkiness of Holmes.  I am more and more drawn to people and characters that are different from the average, typical, and boring man.  Especially when they are shameless in exhibiting their quirkiness.

One of the most compelling elements in the movie was the relationship between Holmes and the Watson.  There are rarely strong friendships exhibited between men in movies and so immediately I was drawn to the relationship between the two.  While there was never really outward sentiment exhibited during the movie, the underlying friendship is and how much the two care for each other is strongly implied.  They both are at a place where regardless of the crap that they other gets into or no matter how ridiculous the situation, they aren’t surprised and will stick through it together.  As frustrating as it may be in a way for Watson to keep being thrust into situations due to Holme’s narcissistic tendencies, there is a underlying trust that exists.  They know that they both will be there for each other through every fight, battle, or case.

I know that I am projecting my own desires and longings, but I felt as though I could understand and relate to Holmes’ struggle with Watson getting married.  The uncertainty of not knowing how the friendship would look in the future is difficult for Holmes and he makes a desperate attempt to be supportive while simultaneously hold on to the friendship in the best way he knows how.  I am trying to figure out myself how to deal with my married friends and the future of our relationships.  Part of me believes it is an impossible situation that cannot find be redeemed, however, I want to hold onto the small glimmer of hope that there is a place for me in their lives still…

As we walked out of the movie, all of us mentioned how the relationship between Holmes and Watson was excellent and on its way to joining all the other famous film duos.  While the emotional connection isn’t necessarily depicted, the development and depiction of their hilarious and subtly caring relationship will probably fall into my own list of favorite film/t.v. friendships behind other greats such as Sam and Frodo (LOTR), J.D. and Turk (Scrubs), and Andy and Red (Shawshank Redemption).  Any other good movies with solid friendships depicted?

My brother loves Lady Gaga and is not gay.

Now that I have started this blog, I often think of different topics during that day that I consider writing down to eventually turn into a post later on.  I find it hard to know whether I should  just push on writing about things that happen in my every day life or take some time to tell a bit about my past and my story.  I also wonder about the level of maturity I should show on this blog.  Yesterday, while visiting my grandparents in their retirement home, I had this evil thought about how “I hope that the next door neighbors haven’t died so that their unlocked Wi-Fi is still available.”  I actually started writing a blog about that, but then stopped myself thinking how immature and wrong that is to mention that out loud.  However, I decided tonight that I might as well write whatever the heck I want instead of always trying to be serious or having fully thought through what I am going to post.  I guess if people get bored reading this, then they get bored. I think I will get more of a kick out of sharing the stupid things that go on in my day then aways trying to spit out semi-intelligent content (as I wrote that, my spell check told me that I misspelled intelligent… I guess I am not fooling anyone).

I find that there is so much in life that we restrict or filter due to social norms or practices.  For instance, I find it incredibly amusing whenever people fulfill a social stereotype.  It doesn’t matter if you are white, black, latino, skinny, fat, or Korean, there are just certain things that characterize that stereotype so much that people have got to be aware of what they are doing.  People may call it racist to point it out, but the reality is that stereotypes exist because they are mostly true.  Someday I would like to write a book about “You might be a stereotype if…” and go through the obvious stereotypes that all of us are aware of, but no one is willing to comment on out loud.  I guess this all started because tonight at dinner, my blonde cousin started talking about her chihuahua named “Cali” (after California) and then went on to describe the 30 or more outfits that she enjoys dressing her dog in.

Even for myself, there are certain stereotypes that I really do not like being associated with, particularly the gay stereotype.  Honestly, if I hadn’t opened up to some of my friends, there would be no way at all that they would have known about my struggle with homosexuality.  I guess in some ways the fact that I have never had a girlfriend might be a questioning factor, but other than that, I am a pretty normal guy.  I love to play sports, the outdoors, and I dress rather plainly.  It is frustrating that most straight guys picture men struggling with homosexuality to be completely effeminate and uncoordinated, talking with a lisp and having zero control over their wrists flopping all over the place.  While there are definitely men like this, and I believe straight guys still need to learn to love them regardless, do gay guys have to try so hard to show that they are gay?

Even for myself, it is hard how when I open up to people about my struggle, they try to start putting me into that box of the gay stereotype.  There are several things in my life that when viewed through the filter of my being gay, seem to make more sense.  For instance, I love art and design, I enjoy watching Project Runway and critiquing the outfits, I like all types of music including Broadway musicals, and I do have a much more sensitive soul to emotions and feelings then most guys do.  I don’t think any of these things are wrong or prove that I am gay deep down and just need to let it all out.  In fact, my brother is strangely obsessed with Lady Gaga and Katy Perry and yet people just laugh about it rather than questioning his sexuality (he is definitely straight, married with two kids).  However, if it were me, it would simply be attributed to my homosexuality.

As I am trying to open and more and more with the people around me, I sometimes wonder if I need to remove these “stereotypically gay” things just to prove that I am not pursuing that lifestyle.  There really shouldn’t be a need for me to do so, but due to most straight guy’s insecurities regarding gay men, I feel as though I need to try to make it as easy as possible for the friends that know about my struggle.  I never know what they think about me and so I wrestle with my own insecurities as a result.  It is unfortunate that the guys who hold the key to a lot of my healing and growth are the very people I am trying to protect and not scare off.  I am still praying for the day when the men of the church actually man up and start leading by example, rather then creating an environment where people who struggle with SSA feel completely unwelcome or unsafe.

I’ve been gone too long.

Being back in the U.S. has been difficult.  I completely expected this time to be hard and challenging, however I thought I would have a bit more self control and things would fall into place a bit easier.  What I have quickly realized is that by being gone for a year and a half, my place in people’s life is no longer there.  Their daily lives have developed and have gone on without me for so long that for me to be back is awkward.  Clearly it is going to take some time for me to feel comfortable around everyone and for them to find a place in their life for me as well. I know that my feelings are not at all a representation of where our friendships are at, however I think I may have had too high of expectations of how things would look when I would get back.

I love the party scene in 500 Days of Summer where it compares the difference between expectations and reality.  I feel as though I am always experiencing a similar parallel  in my life.  As much as I pride myself on being a realistic person, I still naively fall into hoping for things to turn out better with my friends.  I struggled with being isolated and alone while I was overseas and I couldn’t help but long to get back to the states where I felt I had a decent community.  However, whenever I am here I never really feel that I truly belong.  My personal insecurities make me feel as though I am inconveniencing others when I try to set up time to hang out together.  I also feel as though everyone else is perfectly satisfied with the level of where our friendship is at while I desire more intimacy and depth.  Why do I feel as though I am the only one who desires more in a friendship?

Joe Schmo – Let me introduce myself.

My name is Joe.

After being out of the country for roughly a year and a half, I am back in L.A. and once again unemployed.  In view of my previous periods of unemployment and the struggles I had, I want to make an attempt at being productive by starting a blog.  As much as there are plenty of subjects I would love to write about, I decided to blog about my life as I struggle with homosexuality.  While I don’t think I will be limited to only that subject, I think that it is the main area that I will focus on.  Perhaps it is to indulge my narcissistic tendencies or maybe I simply desire an arena to be heard, but my ultimate desire is to create a place of dialogue as well as hopefully through sharing my experiences, allow others to see that they are not alone.

In my previous blogs I always found a need to refine each post, make sure there were no grammatical errors, and that I communicated as efficiently as possible.  As a result, I found that it was difficult to post regularly.  My hope is that I can set aside my perfectionistic tendencies and just write.  I would rather this be a brutally honest blog that is a true reflection of my experience, even though there may be errors, then it to be a well written post that has been thought through far too much.  I guess I will have to see how this goes.

All the names in the blog, including my own, are switched in order to protect the privacy of others.  Joe is actually my middle name and I rarely go by it… usually only at Starbucks when it is easier than trying to get them to spell my real name.  Also, there are still many people in my life that do not know about my struggle and as much as I recognize that my story is not my own, but God’s, I do believe there needs to be discernment when and where to share that story with others.  As of now, I don’t even know if I am going to let my friends know about this blog yet, simply because I don’t know how much I will need to filter as a result.  Deep down, I desire transparency both in my life as well as online, but that is going to take time.  So please bear with me.

As for a little bit about me…  I am in my mid 20’s and have grown up as a Christian.  I started struggling with homosexuality around the age of 13 and have had many highs and lows in that journey.  I studied art and Bible in college, however I have continued to have a mixture of jobs ever since graduating.  More than anything, I really want to live my life for something greater than myself and so I am trying to figure out what that may look like.  For the past year and a half I have been doing ministry and relief work all around the world.  It was an incredibly impactful time in my life, but also one of the most difficult years I have ever faced.  Currently I am back in Southern California searching for work and trying to focus on developing community.  As much as traveling around the world was an awesome experience, I have found that without community I am bound to fail and fall into temptations.  I am guessing I will be sharing a lot about my struggle with finding community… while it is essential for my growth and healing, it is simultaneously the one thing that I can’t seem to obtain, no matter how hard I try.  Anyways, that is a brief glimpse of where I am at in life.  As I continue to blog, I am sure there will be many more opportunities to find out more about me, my life, and my journey.