Monday, August 14, 2006

An encounter I'm not looking forward to...

For years, my friend (who shall remain nameless) and I were advisors for the Order of DeMolay, a Masonic youth group. It was a great outlet for whatever paternal instincts I had - and, at that point, I just knew that being married and "living the life" would save me from my baser instincts. DeMolay had been a big part of my life as a teenager, so being an advisor just felt like giving back to those who had given to me. I took to it like a duck to water - and had a blast with it.

My friend and I were like Bing Crosby and Bob Hope in "The Road to..." movies. Like twin sons of different mothers. Though he was a decade and a half older than me, the age difference never seemed to matter. Our wide-ranging interests and similarly-warped humor brightened many a journey together. We were always getting into scrapes, always ending up at odd places, and had 13 years of great, great memories and lasting friendships. Many of the young men I sponsored are now leaders and advisors in their own rights - one young man's son is leader of a chapter near our town right now.

When my life fell apart, leading me to unemployment and eventually divorce, I left DeMolay completely. I remember having a somewhat tearful dinner with some of my young charges, and trying to tell them that my needing to leave was because of my own problems, and had nothing to do with them. I really loved working with them - the whole mentoring/teaching/nurturing thing just called out to me deeply.

I can honestly say that at the time, I had sublimated my sexuality at that point so deeply that the idea of "being inappropriate" with any of the guys was completely unthinkable. Did I envy a couple of them their good looks? You bet. Was I ever tempted to touch them in any way other than a very "brotherly" hug? Not once.

But my life took me in other directions. Though I joined the Masonic lodge out in a midwestern state, it just had very little appeal to me at that stage of the game. It probably didn't help that in those midwestern regions (and isolated instances elsewhere), there had been some instances of sexual abuse by advisors - and as a result, the adult organization had nothing I wanted. So I never got involved, and stayed involved with the church instead.

The impending move back to my hometown, on the surface, means having the opportunity to get back into advising in DeMolay again. My friend - who has never, ever indicated that he even suspects my true orientation - has invited me to go with him to a DeMolay ceremony this weekend when I am visiting. And though it sounds like fun, just to revisit for old time's sake - I' afraid I know what the real answer is.

You see, I am absolutely certain that "the boys" would be no temptation to me - that's just not ever been a turn-on to me, ever. But I also know that the organization has a "youth protection program," complete with a "comprehensive background investigation" - and the experience of several friends back in the Midwest shows pretty convincingly that there is no room in the ranks of advisors to teen-aged boys for homosexuals. Celibate or not, doesn't matter...if I am a self-identified gay man, my understanding is there's no room for me as a DeMolay advisor. Not even as a DeMolay visitor. Period. Paragraph.

And I'm definitely a self-identified gay man. No doubt there. I am what I am...

And I've already decided that I'm not going back in the closet for anybody. Not family, not friends, certainly not for God, and not for any organization. So the choice is clear.

I just hate the prospect of disappointing my old friend. Not that I think he'd be particularly disappointed that I'm gay - no one's waiting for grandkids from me, at this late stage of the game. I just hate knowing how much my buddy and friend would like me back - and in more than a couple ways, how much I'd like to go back.

But I'm pretty damn sure that road is closed, now and for a long, long time to come.

It will be an interesting discussion...

(Update: for some perverse reason, this post shows up as the #1 listing when searching for "DeMolay sexual abuse." For that reason, I've eliminated all references to my friend or the town. I thought about wiping the post entirely...but in a day or so, the history will be gone....I hope.)


  1. From what I read, your self-understanding and the sense of wholeness and peace (shalom) that comes with it is far more important than the disappointment at not being involved in deMolay. I'm guessing that it is a small price to pay for that inner peace. Best wishes.

  2. steve, i can sympathize with you. i think you are making an extremely wise decision and it is worth the peace you will have knowing it was the right thing to do.

    all will be well. peace, pumpkin.

  3. Steve, I think that both decisions (the decision to be out, period, and the decision to avoid mentoring boys in DeMolay) are wise, on three accounts:

    (1) Now that you have stopped hiding from your sexual orientation, hiding your sexual orientation from others in situations where it makes a difference to them (as in the case of mentoring teenage boys in DeMolay) would violate the principle of "rigorous honesty", and put your 12-Step program at risk, if not destroy it.

    (2) At this point in your personal journey (recently out, coming to terms with a history of internalized homophobia, trying to find your personal balance as a gay man) mentoring boys into the mysteries of Masonic life is probably not the best way to meet your own needs, entirely aside from the question of whether you are at a point where you have enough self-balance to offer the boys anything real from yourself.

    (3) You've spent much of your adult life mentoring youngsters (youth minister, sponsoring young men in your 12-Step program, and so on). The role of youth-mentor is comfortable for you, and you are no doubt good at it. But I suspect that to fall back into that role at this point, in DeMolay, would keep you in your "comfort zone", at a time when you -- it seems to me, anyway -- very much need to be living outside your comfort zone, struggling with who you are and how you will live your own life.

    At any rate, I think your decisions were wise, and I'm glad you made the decisions you did. I don't suppose Michael and I will be seeing much of you in person after your move to Toledo, but I hope we will stay in contact nonetheless.

  4. Steve, I think you are wise to steer clear of DeMolay and their limited vision. The FACTS are that child molesters are much more likely to be straight than gay. MUCH.

    But the old stereotypes persist. And it would only take one mean-spirited person suggesting something to really destroy you.

    The other sad thing is that you could be (are, really) a model and mentor for gay youth who might be struggling with coming out. But you could never address that with them in an organization such as Demolay.

    Sad. Their loss.

    Cheers, Joe.

  5. Steve, I think your friends in Missouri and Kansas are not in step with where many DeMolay Chapters are today. Some of the DeMolay of the 80's and 90's I knew grew up to be gay men and still remain active in DeMolay, more so then I have. It was well know to me and others in Kentucky DeMolay in the late 80's that DeMolay's Ceremony of Light was written by a gay member. Masonry and DeMolay reflects society of a whole, maybe a decade behind granted, and I think most chapters can accept a gay advisor. Certainly in its teaching DeMolay is a liberal progressive group. The fact is in the 21st Century most people, Masons and DeMolays include, have gay family members or friends they have accepted and rejection is less and less likely. Not to say there are not still some people and maybe some chapters out there that are out of step, but I just would not assume it.

  6. Steve, I myself am a member of the order of DeMolay and a leader within the state. My greatest mentor and advisor for the last 8 years of DeMolay is infact a gay man. He is considered one of the strongest and best advisors in our state, and has done more amazing things for the boys then 80 percent of the other advisors.

    So unlike everyone else who has posted, I think your choice was unwise. I would incourage you to return to the order of Demolay and do everything you can for the boys who look up to you. One comment listed DeMolay as having, "limited vision" but you and I both know that is a very untrue state ment. To be involved with DeMolay there are three musts; 1. believe in God, 2. Be between the ages of 12 and 21, and 3. Be a man. No where does it list what your sexual orientation must be.

    For god, for country, for Demolay,
    "Joe DeMolay"

  7. An update, for Joe D. and several others...

    I did actually become an advisor for DeMolay. I have been the chapter advisor for a year. I'm not sure I've done much good - the chapter doesn't seem to be in a hugely better shape than it was a year ago. But I'm there, and hopefully hearts (if not minds) are being changed.

    I am not out to them. I am out to the district governor, who is sympathetic but cautious. I have become pretty emphatic about the guys using phrases like "That's so gay" and the F-word. They know I have a friend who committed suicide rather than come out, and they know it's a hot-button issue with me.

    If I ever leave, for whatever reason, my last act will be to come out to them. I've already resolved that. My governor (the regional "advisor to the advisors") has asked me to be discreet, and I am doing so. By the same token, my boyfriend is coming to the Chevalier investiture at which I will be Grand Commander... but definitely in "don't spook the str8 folks" mode.

    Who knows, for now? I am trying desperately to do the "next right thing." If it works, or even if it doesn't - in the end, Soli Deo Gloria. To God alone be the glory.

  8. Why does your sexuality HAVE to be an issue? It may not be relevant to share it.