Some weeks back, I met this guy, Jeff, online (I've actually changed his name, obviously, because he's specifically requested I would not "out" him, and I'm feeling sympathetic). We exchanged messages for a while and then eventually agreed to meet up to see if things sparked.
He ended up being a pretty nice guy, a guy I wouldn't mind knowing socially, though there were many flashing red lights for me: He's a Mormon (and I haven't met an unmarried sexual Mormon who wasn't some sort of psychotic, and then there's the whole no alcohol or drugs or caffeine bit). He's a closeted Mormon (which makes sense, not being closeted would make him excommunicated, but still--closeted guys are tricky enough without the extra hang ups inherent with Mormonism). He's a rather conservative (which is pretty much my diametric opposite), and went on a lengthy rant about how he hates that homosexuals are fighting for "special" rights, like marriage, etc. when they don't need any "special" rights (I really shut so much of this particular conversation out, as I didn't feel like entering a large argument at the time). He hates the color orange (I've two orange shirts of which I'm quite fond. I'm still that shallow).
Anyway, we decided we'd meet again and continue getting to know each other better, blah, blah, blah...in an urban gay speak it usually meant quite the opposite, so I wasn't surprised that I never heard from him again.
Except he's just begun e-mailing me again, expressing how he'd lost my number (heh) and that he was also scared by my honesty about my sexuality. He's struggling with his identity as a gay man vs. his identity as a good Mormon and wants someone he can share his feelings with freely as he's confused about his life.
Typically, I encourage kids to stay closeted while they're minors if they live in a home environment that is more likely to condemn them than accept them. On the flip side, I'm not very fond or accepting of gay adults who are closeted. Personally, I think that an adult has the power to create their own safe space and they should take responsibility for being true to themselves. I can understand the fear of losing your family's love...but how can a person feel their family really loves them if their family doesn't really know them? This guy's thirty-two. He doesn't have to worry about his family beating him or kicking him out of their house. He does have to worry about a religion that is very harsh towards homosexuality (while purporting the opposite amongst themselves). That just opens a whole other can of worms for me. I don't get the religious types who still follow along dogmatically to a religion that condemns their very being.
I don't get it.
I want to be a good person, be there for this guy and help him become a person who is more capable of accepting himself for who he is. I don't know how I can do this without counselling him heavily to come out of the closet and let the change that brings come. I know the unknown is a big scary, but I'm of the opinion that bottling your identity up is far more harmful to yourself.
I got back to him, very brief:
You can trust that I won't reveal your sexuality to anyone. At the same time, if you were to be my friend, and ever spend time with me when I was with other friends, I'm not sure the same should apply. If we were to meet only with each other, that would be one thing. I'm very understanding of your personal quandary in trying to make a sensible balance of a life as a gay man in your background. I understand how hard it is to think of the possibility of family, church etc. finding out who you really are and rejecting you. But I don't think you'll ever feel truly comfortable in your own skin by leading a double life--I think you end up causing yourself more confusion and personal harm in the long run. And by no means will we be having sex? If you ask, I'm gone.
Thanks, that was a really sweet note. You still sound like a nice guy and we should hang out. Thanks for being so understanding. Sometimes I just want to be with someone I can feel safe with and trust and be able to talk and stuff. You seem like a nice guy.
Yawn. I'm a nice guy? I fucking hate that. Yes, I can be nice, but I tell you now, if you think that's my driving personality trait, you should really try to know me better, because you're sans clue.
At any rate, I plan to keep our friendship and my status as understanding friend on a via e-mail and YM's only basis for the forseeable future. I think I'm just as capable of talking and dispensing understanding and advice thru writing as I am in person--and that will take away the risky possibility of my irresistable nature adversely affecting him.