It’s been a while (almost, not quite, a year); so apologies. Recent interactions with friends and SF comment threads have prompted thoughts on life choices revolving around mixed-orientation relationships.
Consider two friends of mine.
Friend A is not a Christian, and has no moral qualms about being in a relationship with another man. He is currently dating a gay, but contemplating ending the relationship. He loves his boyfriend, but also feels a filial obligation to continue his family line, to honor the wishes of his traditionalist Asian parents. He considers himself bisexual, having dated girls in the past, so deems it possible; and knows that meeting a girl, marrying, starting a family, and bearing grandchildren would be his way of honoring his parents. He does not fear the prospects of, once getting married to a woman, no longer being able to enjoy intimacies with other men. Yet his friends—all liberal, American, individualistic—tell him to tend to his own needs and wants. Given his own Asian upbringing and Eastern-minded sensibilities, however, he feels a deep need—even desire—to give back to his parents. He faces a difficult decision ahead. Should he end things with his current boyfriend? Friend A is torn.
Friend B is a Christian, who recently ended a serious relationship with a woman. The idea of marriage and raising a family—and the normalcy that comes with these things—had always been attractive, yet try as he might, he ultimately could not commit to being with someone he felt no sexual desire or compelling love for. Being an orthodox conservative Christian, he does have reservations about being with another man. His closest friends—also Christian and conservative—urge him to remain strong in the moral convictions he once stood firmly by. Yet he finds himself thinking this is his only option for ever finding relational intimacy with another person in this lifetime: to find a man he can love. His fear of lifelong loneliness is very real. Should he pursue love in a male partner? Friend B is torn.
Both Friends A and B are gay Asian American males. Despite their many differences—different religions, moral convictions, sexual fluidity, relationship experiences, peer group, motivating fears and desires—what they share in common is the necessity of making hard life decisions about their relationships while facing tensions concerning their sexuality. This is a burden to which few others can relate. Friend A’s friends cannot understand why his sexual preferences must come second to his family duties. Friend B’s friends cannot accept his resolution to seek forbidden love in light of his faith. To outsiders, such divisions must appear almost illusory. Can’t one have it all: faith, family, and fraternizing? (Or substitute the other f-word. No, not the four-lettered obscenity; the slur.)
Life forces you to decide. You only get to walk down one path. This is less a lesson of the “straight and narrow path”, than it is of “serving either God or Mammon”; less a matter of striking the right work-life balance, than of seeking human touch vs. the Midas touch; less a dilemma of navigating Sophie’s world, than of making Sophie’s choice. One simply cannot have it all.
I await news from Friends A and B. Whatever each ends up deciding, I know it will come with the solemnity of letting go of something that is precious to them. For those relinquishments, I grieve.