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Ron Belgau

January 1998

Sunshine in Seattle

Ok, I know most of you won't believe me, but it is still pretty warm here in Seattle. We've had a few rainy days, but hardly any. Last weekend (remember I'm writing this Dec. 14), it was warm and sunny. I was at the beach with a friend, and since it was warm, I took off my socks and shoes, rolled up my pantlegs, and went wading in the surf. It was chilly, but not that bad. And I've got photos to prove it.

I'm almost done with my finals (I wrote a paper on growing up gay for Anthropology), and I'm just about to go home for Christmas break. Yahoo! I sort of hope the weather stays nice, but then it won't really feel like Christmas if it's dry and in the mid fifties. I wouldn't mind a white Christmas, but it doesn't look like that's going to happen. With the sort of weather we've been having, the only thing that makes it feel like Christmas is the advent services at Church. Oh, and I haven't started my Christmas shopping yet. Maybe the crowds at the mall will remind me that Christmas is right around the corner.

As I have been reflecting about Christmas, I think about how lucky I am that I can go home to a supportive family and a supportive Church at home. So many of you are probably looking forward to the holidays with dread, worried about how things will go with your parents. One of my friends is planning to come out to his parents over the holidays -- it'll probably be pretty stressful for him. For those of you in tough situations, I pray that things at home will improve, or that you will find others who will welcome you and give you the love and support that is unavailable at home. And even if it stays sunny here in Seattle, I hope the rest of you have a white Christmas.

Celibate in Seattle

However, the main subject in this column is MUCH weirder than sunshine in Seattle. I'm going to write about a 31-year-old gay virgin who's been in a relationship with another guy, including some time living together, for 7 years. Seriously, I am not making this up. This is a real person that I have talked to face-to-face.

Have I got everybody's attention now? I thought so. Now let's continue.

'Sean' is a 31-year-old gay Christian. In the eighties, he went to an ex-gay ministry in a large Southern city, hoping to be cured. He wasn't, and became disillusioned with the movement when he saw most of the other guys having sex with each other. For many, this ministry (theoretically a place where people get 'cured' of being gay) was a cruising spot. The ministry finally fell apart when the man who lead it seduced one of the clients. Out of this experience, 'Sean' decided that becoming straight was not a possibility for him.

After a while, he became friends with 'Matt'. 'Matt' had been married, and was now divorced. He had also had sex with another man. Eventually, 'Sean' and 'Matt' moved in together, but they did not have any sexual contact. A few months later, 'Matt' came to Seattle to take a job here; shortly after, 'Matt' arranged a job here for 'Sean', so he, too, came to Seattle. At first, they lived in separate apartments, but now, they are living together again.

'Sean' and I talked about this in detail. He's a Christian, and thinks some gay Churches have gone way too far in being permissive towards sexuality. He goes to a 'liberal' church, and has complained that although they accept him, that doesn't mean anything because they accept anything. They probably wouldn't object if he was in a relationship with a sheep.

But though he criticizes the liberals, he isn't all that enthusiastic about the conservatives, either. His experience in the ex-gay ministry convinces him that the change option which so many conservatives like so much is probably not valid for a lot of people. He also isn't convinced that it's wrong for two men to have sex, because he finds conservative arguments from the Bible incomplete.

Both sides oversimplify things. Liberals argue that it is certain that homosexual activity is ok. Conservatives are equally certain it is not. In actuality the issue is incredibly complex, and neither 'Sean' nor I feel like we have it wrapped up. But in his relationship with 'Matt', he feels more like they're brothers than that they are lovers. They are very close, and have a lot of affection for each other. But sex is out of the question.

He's not sure this is what he wants for the rest of his life. He's considered finding a 'real' (meaning sexual) relationship, but it hasn't felt right to him. He isn't even sure it's a moral objection; he thinks that even if he was certain that it was OK with God for two men to have sex, he still might not go for it. We discussed whether there might be some psychological hang-up behind this. Sometimes, he thinks there is, but other times he thinks there isn't, and his feelings are leading him correctly. His relationship with 'Matt' is important enough to him that a lot of the time, he would rather hold onto it than move on to something else, yet at the same time, he isn't fully satisfied with it. 'Matt', too, sometimes dates others, but is generally so drawn to the relationship with 'Sean' that he is not willing to leave it for something else.

I've read a lot about psychology, and I know that it is possible on psychological grounds to criticize the relationship as "co-dependent" or some such thing. There may be some hang-up from being brought up in a conservative Christian home which makes 'Sean' hold back from pursuing a sexual relationship with another man. On the other hand, there may be hang-ups from a sex-obsessed culture that make it difficult for him to pursue this sort of 'brother' relationship which he does, much of the time, want. If we knew the answer for sure, we could probably come up with a psychological explanation of why he hesitates and hasn't pursued the right answer. But the whole point is that he doesn't know the right answer.

We talked a lot. I don't have any definite conclusions about his experience. In spite of Andy's glowing comments last month praising my extensive knowledge about spiritual and faith issues surrounding being gay, I still feel a little overwhelmed when trying to deal with real people and real problems. It's so much easier to formulate neat and tidy theories when they don't actually have to apply to real people. It's also easier to decide ahead of time the right answer, and then try to make people fit into my theory. But to paraphrase a very great man, "people were not created for theories, but theories were created to help people."

I still have a great deal to learn. I don't have any definite conclusions about 'Sean' and his dilemma. But his story is so unusual that I couldn't resist sharing. After our first 22-year-old gay virgin spoke up a few months ago, we now have three admitted 22-year-old virgins (including me!) writing for Oasis. Who knows? Maybe this column will bring the virgins-in-relationships out of the woodwork. And maybe it will spark something for the rest of you. I think we often think of being gay more in terms of sex than relationships. Some gays seem to ignore relationships completely and focus only on sex. Even among those who value relationships, sex tends to enter into the relationship pretty early and be pretty important. I think it's important to focus on relationships, and all the non-sexual issues that brings up. And anyway, 31-year-old virgins will help to balance out 13-year-old columnists who are sexually active.

Anyone have any thoughts? I would very much appreciate any thoughts anyone has on this or other issues, and I promise to give prompt, well-thought out replies to whatever questions or issues you raise. Send me e-mail! rbelgau@u.washington.edu.

Oh! And don't forget to check out my poetry in Arts & Entertainment, and my book reviews in the Portable Pride section!


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