Saturday, September 22, 2007
No to Soul Chemo
Do you know what happens when a person gets cancer? In some cases of early detection, the malignant tumor may be removed before it has spread. If the tumor was indeed isolated and discreet, this may be the end of that person's battle with cancer. Sometimes there are clusters of tumors, all malignant, but perhaps localized, and thus again there is a possibility of removing them and keeping the cancer from spreading throughout the body. Sometimes cancer seems to be gone, but then another tumor appears, and again we remove it and hope for the best. But then, there are cases where the cancer has spread into the lymph nodes, and then eventually the whole body is filled with cancer. In most cases certain genes have mutated and instead of creating healthy whole cells, they code for production of cancerous cells. After cancer has spread throughout the body, there is not much that doctors can do. They often give the person afflicted with cancer a certain amount of time to live.
One way of fighting cancer at this advanced stage is chemotherapy. "Chemo" is basically injection of dangerous chemicals that primarily attack rapidly dividing cells. Oncogenes (mutated genes that cause cancer) code for such cells, and thus chemo chemicals attacks them. However, the genes that code for hair growth and intestinal lining are similar. In other words, chemo takes certain systems in your body to within an inch of death with the hope that in killing almost everything, you kill a lot of the cancerous cells. Of course it stands to reason that you will also kill healthy cells in the process. Your hair will fall out and your stomach and intestinal lining will be obliterated. Some individuals even have a port (shunt) put into their bodies: basically an opening where the chemo can be dumped in directly, often in agressive doses. In the film "Wit" Emma Thompson's character is undergoing intense chemotherapy and radiation and therefore she has literally no immune system. She is placed in complete isolation, almost even from her doctors. This is to protect her from simple opportunistic colds or flus, which in her weakened state would kill her. At one point she muses, "I'm not isolated because I have cancer. I'm isolated because I am being treated for cancer." People who are being treated for cancer in this way often seem to be on the brink of death. Well, thats the point. We are almost killing them hoping to get rid of the bad stuff inside. At the same time we hope enough of the good can survive.
If you have ever watched period films, you might have seen doctors treating patients in a similar way when they fall victim to some serious malady. A medical practice called bloodletting existed from antiquity all the way into the late 19th century. The idea was the same: bringing the person even closer to death in hopes that enough of the bad blood would come out to allow the infirm person to recover. Again, good blood was also seeping mercilessly out, but again thats collateral damage.
Many men and women today react to their homosexuality in a similar way to someone being diagnosed with cancer. We have been told directly and indirectly that homosexuality is akin to murder in its seriousness, and that it is a spiritual killer. The church needs to watch out for feminists, intellectuals and homosexuals. Homosexuality is an aberration, a veritable spiritual cancer. In fact when repressed, I see homosexuality as often having a cancerous effect. The more you try to ignore it, the more powerful it becomes. Ignoring cancer will get you killed. Ignoring your homosexuality can make you feel so out of touch with yourself that you no longer feel like a person at all. That's why we are all here now blogging. Even those that are married and fully devoted to the church are making a point of reaching out to this online blogger community so that they can have some contact. We have to admit it. We are gay. Or if you prefer to follow the ambiguous and reductionist vernacular of many anti-gay groups, we have SSA. Gay would mean that we can't do anything about it. And that's wrong. We can change, right?
The big lie that I want to decry is this: homosexuality is a spiritual cancer. That is a lie. I'll tell you what is cancerous-- being treated for homosexuality. Like Emma Thompson in Wit.. we are not isolated and confused because we are attracted to people of the same gender. We are isolated and confused because we are trying to not be attracted to people of the same gender. Cancer will eventually kill your body. Homosexuality will not kill your spirit. If allowed to flourish, cancer will put you in a coffin. If allowed to flourish, homosexuality continues to be exactly what it always was: the emotional and physical desire to couple with a person of your same gender. Nothing less, nothing more.
I have spent 30 years believing that "giving in to my homosexuality" would lead to my spiritual death. I believed that if I did not take an active effort in trying to control the spread of my homosexuality to all areas of my life, that it would literally kill my spirit. As I got closer and closer to the edge, as I became that frog cooking ever so slowly in warming water, as I gradually became "past feeling", as I (insert your favorite fear tactic here), I became terrified of what I would lose when I did fall over the cliff and become that boiled frog and become that past feeling ex-nephite who was now a son of perdition.
Reader, I want to share something with you. I fell. I boiled. I changed. I can't believe what I found. My spirit is alive and thriving. I am whole. I am grateful. I am humble before God. I'm spiritually quickened. I'm connected to the Savior! What I was so afraid of losing was my connection to the Savior. I'm shocked. I thought I would have to choose one or the other. Gay or Mormon. That is true in a way. I guess I really can't be fully Mormon anymore. I'm not allowed to be with a man in any way (even in a legal and lawful union) and still be temple worthy. But what I realize now is that my connection to mormonism was mostly a need to feel connected to the Savior. And I feel Him in my heart in this very moment. I finally decided that I am not going to be a celibate gay mormon. I'm going to be me. I'm not even sure what that is yet, but I know what it's not. I will not be marginalized. I will not be celibate. I will be respected. I will be heard. I will be loved.
All sexuality is a gift. Homosexuality is beautiful. I hope that each of us will look inside and see beauty, not cancer. I pray that none of us will bring ourselves to the brink of death or beyond in the hope of killing his/her homosexuality. We are so beautiful. When will we learn to stop destroying ourselves? I hope that day is today. Today is our day of life.