Thursday, July 3, 2008

Why I'm Gay

I started reading The Week magazine. It's very concise, and although I don't have an absolutely overwhelming schedule, I do suffer from an inability to read through an entire issue of Newsweek or The Economist, both of which I love. Ironically enough, I began reading an article in The Atlantic about the inability to read an entire article as an adaptive technique caused by advertising and the web, but I didn't finish it. :) Thus, The Week works well for me.

In this week's issue of The Week, there is a brief blurb about homosexuality and the research surrounding it. To summarize the already summarized article, I quote a portion: "gay men have brains with architecture strikingly like that of straight women." This study, done in Sweden using MRI and PET scans, showed that gay men and straight women both have highly symmetrical brains, with equal-sized right and left hemispheres (various tests done in my biology class showed this was true for me--I'm both right and left brained). There were also similarities between gay men and straight women found in the amygdala, a part of the brain that relates to emotional reaction.

My reaction, you ask?

It all fits perfectly. I believe this article's claims based on my experience (I guess scientifically I should say "based on my data collection and scrutinous observation"). The article said that the presence of certain hormones during a woman's pregnancy masculinizes the brain. The absence of these, then, turns a male child gay. All of this makes perfect sense. The symmetrical brain explains why many gay men are more artistic, more musical, and more creative than straight men, even before puberty begins and gay sexual attractions emerge. The amygdala explains why gay men tend to be more emotional and articulate (don't you like how elitist I am? I'm kind of a gay-o-phile, or something like that. :) ). Homosexual attractions certainly aren't choices--this demonstrates that to be true. All of the pieces fit. I feel well explained.

This article, however, is a reminder to all of us how little in life we actually get to choose. Gender is determined by the type of sperm that swims fastest to the ovum--out of our control. Skin color is determined by our parents, meaning which two people decide to mate--out of our control. Culture and geographic environment are determined by where our mother gives birth to us--out of our control. Intelligence, like homosexuality, seems to be inherent in the brain. Some children are brilliant, some are not--out of our control. Almost everything that determines what becomes of our life is out of our control, handed to us, forced upon us. If I were born to a Black mother in Sierra Leone, my life would be nothing like it is now. If I were born a woman, my life's purpose would be much different. And even if the same sperm and the ovum that made me still came together, if my mother had only produced the masculinizing hormone, my life would be radically different. I might be married to a woman right now. I would probably have children at some point. I might be majoring in engineering instead English (I actually think I'll double in Environment and Natural Resources, just so you know). It's all very strange to contemplate.

At its core, this is what existentialism is all about. It has been taken to be an extremely angsty and negative thing--a godless, depressing philosophy. But the essence of existentialism (how paradoxical--existentialists believe in existence over essence) is to take what you're given and use it. The best thing that I can do is love being a man, love being white, love being gay, love being from the Rocky Mountains, and do the best with what I've got.

None of us knows if we're all the victims of the chance and probability of biology or the intention and plan of a wiser power/creator. But either way, I'll take what I've got--my consciousness, my body, my life--and make it something incredible.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Losing Ideals, Finding Real Answers

I have all but abandoned this blog, it may seem. The length of time that elapses between each successive post seems to be increasing in an exponentially tragic sort of way. The reasons for this dwindling are multiple, the primary one being that the original function of this blog has changed and (ultimately) been all but eradicated. New perspectives and intentions in this life have led me to ideological places quite different from those with whom I initially made blogging relationships. And I have thus found less marginal utility (I'm currently in an economics course :) ) in continuing to write on this blog.

I had a realization, however, and it may have revitalized my drive to blog. Blogging, for better or worse, does not have to function like life. In life, no matter what does or doesn't happen, the options are to continue consciousness and existence or to terminate life altogether. There is no way to start a new person. You can change, refresh, and revamp, but to completely obliterate or erase the past is not an option. In blogging, however, it always is. If I so desired, I could start up another blog, one in which my new being, my new philosophies, could have a clean beginning. This one could be left behind, left as carrion for the hungry readers of gay, Mormon blogs. But I have chosen to make my blog a life parallel. I can change my blog. I can give it new direction, new purpose, and a new feel. And beautifully enough, I do not need to scrap the past to do so. The same is true in life. Thus, with this life/blog analogy, I return to the pen (that is, the keyboard...)

I spent this year contemplating. Perhaps "contemplating" is too lofty of a word. There was no Buddhist meditation with green tea and lotuses. I spent this year in philosophical agony and existential yearning. Yes, that describes it more accurately. Huge questions entered my life when Mormonism was taken from it; the space that my faith filled left an enormous void, and like a vacuum, I truly began sucking in ideas from all places in life. I will write much, much more on my philosophical discoveries and questions later, but for now I will occupy my blog with its traditional subject--being gay.

Perhaps the best lessons I learned this year actually involve romance, even though I didn't explicitly participate in any. In some ways the things that I learned were shattering to my previous understandings of the world--this year in general could be marked by a general loss of ideals. However, the things I learned have formed the foundation of a maturity that has been much needed for quite awhile.

Probably because I was gay, I matured romantically much later than most. I regarded romantic love as something only between a man and a woman, and as such I either considered myself quite romantically mature (I never experienced lust towards women, I'll tell you that much! :) ) or simply not someone who would ever deal with such questions. I never truly considered the things that begin to weigh on most people's minds as they sexually and emotionally mature. My attractions were towards men, but I was ideologically opposed to having relationships with men, and as such I only ever explored the notions of romance with a man as fantasies. While other kids began to date, learn about those to whom they are attracted, find the enjoyable and the difficult in relationships, etc., I went on dates with women yet dreamed of dating men. Thus, neither the actual or fantastic dates truly taught me the lessons that I needed to learn. I always treated the women nicely, as my good parents taught me to do, but I never had to deal with the questions of commitment, of physicality, etc. because they were non-issues to me. On the other hand, the idea of dating men was something that (I see now) I had blown extremely out of proportion. I felt that if I could only have a boyfriend, my life would be immensely better. It sounds very immature of me to have ever believed this, but my numerous journal entries would easily betray me if I said that I never believed that finding love would solve my problems.

This year, then, was life changing for me. Why it all happened this year I cannot perfectly say. I did not date any men, as to do so would have been a betrayal of my integrity (having signed an honor code strictly prohibiting same-gender romance in all forms). I think that I began considering romantic questions as I considered all other parts of my life. College forced responsibility upon me in all forms, including mental and emotional. College gave me a critical mind like nothing else has; it has forced me to question and to consider all that I believe. The result has been painful, disillusioning, and completely refreshing. Romance seems to have been thrown in there with the rest of my philosophical questions. And oddly enough, even despite my lack of direct experience with it, I learned these things:

1) We all must deal with commitment issues in relationships. This probably sounds obvious, but to me it was not. I was told by my culture that gay relationships didn't last, largely because of commitment issues. Gay men are simply too promiscuous, too "horny" (for lack of a more dignified word) to maintain commitment, I was told. I began looking for these terrible prophecies about gays within myself, and in some form or another, I found them. I realized, however, that we must all deal with these complexities, whether straight or gay, male or female. Every person in a relationship must deal with attractions to those that he/she is not dating. Everyone must deal with jealousy. Everyone must deal with the crankiness of their partner, with different opinions and motives in the relationship, etc. I could elaborate much more on this, but in the name of saving potential readers from losing their entire next hour, I will abbreviate. It suffices to say that I realized that we all must make relationships work, and that relationship difficulty is not endemic to the gay world, just as relationship bliss is not exclusively found in the straight one.

2) Physical appearance is less important than initially seems to be true. This was a truth that I believed I ascribed to, although only after truly experiencing it did I realize that my previous reality was different. I used to sustain long attractions to men on little more than their physical appearance and their overall "look"--the image they were portraying. This all vaporized for me quite quickly here at college. I experienced the most wonderful phenomenon in which people began to be physically more or less attractive to me based on their personalities and internal qualities. One man, who is physically gorgeous, has become hardly attractive to me at all, upon getting to know him and realizing I can hardly relate to him. Another guy, a short kid with gaps between all of his teeth, is physically very attractive to me after this entire year of conversation and relation. It is an odd, albeit wonderful, occurrence. It means that beauty truly does come from within and that it can be found everywhere, for it resides not exclusively in the physical make up but within the soul, as well.

3) Achievements, like physical beauty, can only sustain a relationship for a short period of time. As an example, I thought I had feelings for a guy on my floor who got a 35 on the ACT, who plays the viola, piano, and sings beautifully, who has taken many AP tests and received 5s on all of them, etc. He is perfect, as far as records and charts go. I thought I liked him. But as I got to know him, these things faded, and the soul to soul relationship that was left between us was less than fulfilling. I enjoy him as a friend, but I realized that it has nothing to do with his accolades. There is something intangible and wonderfully mysterious that binds two hearts together, and it is certainly not quantified achievement.

I will stop here for now. This post is already too long, and I have only just begun. Expect more. I am back in the game, renewed and ready. Blogger world, here I come.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Potter Puzzles

The main question in my life right now is that concerning my university. Through the past months, I have been through some of the most agonizing times and some of the most insomnia-causing nights, all to have come to some wonderful conclusions. I have learned much about life and myself. And fortunately, despite all of the unknown, many answers have come my way.

But the largest matter on my mind is the question of where and how I am to spend the next four years of my life. I won't give my entire history with this question here (it is lengthy), but suffice it to say that my long path with this question has led me to two possibilities, that of either staying at BYU or that of transferring to a different university that I have selected.

Who would have thought, however, that this week, and this night, would have made this problem seem so acutely crucial in my life? Consider the dissonance that these following occurrences have caused me. Tonight, when I finally (for the first time) planned out the rest of my college courses as if I were to stay at BYU, the website somehow deleted all of the planning work that I had entered. This is not a problem that is frequently encountered with this program. A mere glitch? Or a sign? I am inclined to believe the former, although I truly don't know. "Coincidences" of this sort are prevalent in my life.

And it has been uncanny how frequently I have seen the alternate university that I have chosen referenced on t-shirts and in other forms. I met a girl at a service project today from its home state. And the people sitting behind me in the movie theater tonight were talking about the tree huggers from this state (how I want to be with fellow tree huggers!). And these situations are truly only a tiny fraction of all of the odd coincidences pointing me towards this university. I know that we see what we look for, but I have honestly experienced too many odd experiences with this university to brush them aside as the product of a selective mind.

Thus, I found it extremely odd tonight when more answers and questions came to me in the form of a movie, namely Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Before the intense action and emotion of the film had begun, I began crying in the theater because of the emotions I felt. I feel a resonance with Dumbledore, the archetypal god of the Harry Potter series and a man who has been identified as being gay. I love Rowling's overarching message of inclusion and compassion within her stories; to me, one of the strongest messages of the books is to love those with less pure blood, to love those that are outcasted, misfitted, or otherwise different, to love those of different species and forms, and now, the ex post facto knowledge of Dumbledore's sexuality lends the theme of the book to include loving gays, as well. How beautiful a tale Rowling created. I love her.

The movie taught me that the greatest way to conquer evil is hand in hand with supporters in the cause of the light. I need supporters. I believe I have many. I recently gained the support of my best friend, a man that said nothing to me other than to express his happiness about my gayness. I have never been received with such a positive light, and his acceptance utterly changed my world and outlook. I wonder if I need more of his form of support, support that doesn't have any religious complications to confound or cloud it. I honestly do not know. But I know that it was beautiful and transforming. Maybe by transferring, I could find professors that loved me because of who I am, including my sexuality. I could find friends that would love for me to be open with them in all things, including spirituality and sexuality. I might be loved in the most wholesome way, and I need that. That is how darkness is vanquished.

The strongest message that I have been learning in my life is that of fear and love. I recognize these two forces as the basic powers that guide all that we do, the one leading to greater light, the other to continued and stronger darkness. In Harry Potter this is evident, as well. Voldemort's greatest weapon is fear; it is how he controls and destroys people. Love, on the other hand, can truly triumph over all, healing the broken wounds and giving breath to the fallen. In my life, I know these two forces to be at work. And it is my deepest truth that I always want to act out of love and not out of fear, as difficult as this may be.

But do I fear replanting my roots, transferring universities, and accepting the unknown? Or do I genuinely love my classes at BYU, the resources here, the opportunities to study abroad, the excellent programs, the quirky professors, the brilliant students? I cannot say. But I will be grateful for what I have, for I feel I have been given all. I know that I love my life and those within it, and for now, that is enough of an answer for me.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A Spectrum of People...and Colors

I consistently promise myself that I will use my blog for endeavors other than those that are explicitly gay. Certainly I have something to say about literature, national politics, academics, or even the weather, right? Alas, I find the answer repeatedly being "no." This blog will always be the gay expression of my soul. At this point I have relinquished any hope otherwise.

While it may seem like I am actively "playing the field" out here in college, I promise that my actions are not as lascivious as they may seem. The man that I mentioned in "Meeting My Match" and I have had no further developments. For some people, this is sad news (be assuaged; there is more to come). For others (*cough* BYU Honor Code Office *cough*) this is exactly as it should be. However, prospects are not yet bleak for the romantic life of Sully Littrell.

I was invited to a dance party in a dormitory tonight. I went not knowing the host or the company. I was pleasantly surprised, therefore, to encounter a guy that I had previously met at a pre-semester university function. I remember the first time that I met him simply because his physiognomy is quite similar to that of David, the largest crush of mine to date. This guy, who we'll name Clive, is certainly a rogue among BYU students. His clothing is about as bohemian as I have seen, and in many attractive ways he defies the norms of the university. Suffice it to say that Clive is a kid on whom I have had my eye.

Tonight, Clive was rather attentive to me during the dance. He equipped me with a single white glove to match his own (can anyone say "Michael Jackson"?), he later brought me a hat to adorn (I suppose he was dressing me to his taste), and to be could say that he didn't have many inhibitions regarding dance techniques. The dance was brief but enjoyable, and I left early with a friend of mine so that we could resume our studies for tests we have tomorrow. As we left Clive's dorm, my friend looked back at the dorm and commented on the flag hanging in Clive's window. "That's his gay pride flag," she said. I looked back and saw a beautiful rainbow covering his window. I was curious, so I pressed the subject.

"Is it really for gay pride, or does he just have an affinity for...the spectrum of colors?"

"No, it's definitely gay pride. He's really into that cause."

I guess I'm just hoping he's really into that in general. :)

Monday, September 24, 2007

My Poor Roommate

I have spent considerable time with some of my gay friends recently. One night I got in particularly late, and this conversation occurred the following morning.

Roommate: What time did you get in last night?

Me: A little after 4:00.

Roommate: Holy cow! There must have been some cute girls!

Me: Haha...yeah.

Cute girls all right. :)

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Meeting My Match

I suppose that life creates people who become filters for the unique aspects of their lives. Strong female rights activists see the world as one large feminist ordeal. People with eating difficulties constantly notice the prevalence of food in society. I have carried the burden (and blessing) of same-gender attraction, and thus I tend to see life for all of its gayness. I find homoerotic quotes in literature, I identify the stereotypically gay traits of my friends, and I even subconsciously (and occasionally consciously) probe people to fully determine the extent of their gayness. It's a mind game from which I derive much pleasure and occasional bits of knowledge.

The new university setting has been full of people to potentially probe (alliteration!), and thus I have been at my happiest. I was quite shocked, however, when my game granted atypical results. I have frequently been successful in identifying personal barriers and breaking points in my friends relative to "gay comfort" levels. (This is all done with much subtlety and tact, of course.) Thus, when I engaged in this mental pleasure of mine with a man to whom I was attracted, I was shocked to be led hand in hand to any depth that I dictated.

I met this guy (who needs a pseudonym...any suggestions?) through a mutual friend on campus, and we spent the first hours of our acquaintance on a dance floor where I was continually entreated to dance within his circle. I had no hesitation, and the night was quite enjoyable. Later that night, I was privileged to play my game with him, only to find that he matched my flirtation to every level that I took it. In fact, it was Mr. I-need-a-blogger-pseudonym who took it the furthest; he suggested the homosexual relationship between my dormitory, which is affectionately called "Bend Over Stover" and his own, "Gay May." I had been out-flirted gay style.

And then tonight, as we spoke, things escalated. We spoke of our childhoods. I was invited to visit his new house in Denver. He asked for my phone number. When a girl was taking a piece of fuzz off of my shirt, he asked if she needed help and began massaging me. I walked him to his dorm.

I may be at fault for mental embellishment, but I can't help but to notice that I have been matched or outdone by this guy in an flirtatious endeavor. And (un)fortunately for me, I am quite enamored with the boy. I could write an entire post on his excellent qualities, but I'll save that for a further development; I don't yet know if I'll be using his qualities to highlight the incredible man that he is or to lament his name. Time will tell.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Gay Vulnerability

Random Anecdote: Brigham Young University hosted a dance tonight to help new students become acquainted one with another. There was a partner dance competition, and perhaps the most progressive (liberal) of all of BYU's male students, a guy named Ben, sought me out as his temporary partner. We danced, I dipped him, and he ended up winning with his girl partner (in the name of decency, of course). It was hilarious, miraculous, and downright blasphemous, so naturally I loved it. If only BYU knew what a commitment it made when it sent me my letter of acceptance. :)

Real Blog: A phenomenon has been occurring with increasing frequency in my life, and my beloved sister finally helped me to pinpoint it. I can only hope that identification is the first step to overcoming, for I often believe that I would be better without it.

When I interact with gay men who are aware of my own homosexuality, I commonly feel a myriad of emotions not typically associated with "hanging out." These range anywhere from feeling a heightened happiness or excitement to an utter confusion or continual anxiety. I leave these social sessions with feelings of ecstasy coupled with what could be termed an anxiety. Unfortunately, I did not know why this was; no amount of self-directed psychotherapy brought me to a conclusion.

The topic must have arisen randomly in conversation, and my incredible sister helped me pinpoint the issue. She explained to me how when I am with this crowd, my deepest, formerly darkest secret is completely on the table for all of these other men to accept or reject. She showed me how, in my social life, it is the pinnacle of vulnerability. I place my concealed sexuality and all of its appendages, facets, trials, etc. in the public (socially speaking) every time I associate with my gay friends.

To exacerbate the situation, my "deepest secret" directly relates to my acceptance or rejection by men. To illustrate, let me use an example: if someone's greatest secret was their love of apples, and they met with other people who loved apples, it would be a vulnerable situation but not anything exorbitantly so. However, if someone whose greatest secret was their love of apples met with a bunch of other apples (who also had a secret love of apples), things would be tricky. That is the plight of a gay man who associates with other gay men. The secrets, and thus the intimacy, are extremely open, and a part of the secret itself is whether or not the other people with the secret accept or reject you. That was a perplexing sentence, but I hope that I have left the reader in a position to understand what I'm saying at least on a basic level.

Does anyone else experience this phenomenon? Or should I not have posted this unique problem and kept it a deep secret? :)