Antelopes and giraffes have a few things in common, right? Four legs, both mammals. We consider them fundamentally different creatures. Now lets say a third animal comes running alongside them. One that resembles an antelope, but it also has a number of qualities that a giraffe has. Maybe it has long legs or maybe it has spots. Should we say and I think this should be in a British accent: that animal there is fundamentally an antelope with a few giraffe qualities. Or should we give the creature a new name? A giraffelope.
That’s Micah, talking with Brendan about the claim that gay men’s brains are like women’s brains, from the novel Ockham’s Razor, by Alan Michael Williams. I agree with Micah, yet, ironically, the novel made him look a lot like a “giraffelope” to me. Forgive me for viewing the story through the lens of my own (straight) experience, but it had me thinking “Micah loves Brendan the way a man loves a woman” and “Micah loves Brendan the way a woman loves a man.”
If the popular stereotypes are true, I think a lot of straight men would find this novel difficult — not because of the explicit man-on-man sex action, but because of the explicit (and frequent) man-on-man “let’s talk about our relationship” action. Sexist stereotypes aside, if you’re one of those people who thinks a good story ought to include some car-chases and explosions, then you probably won’t find this novel interesting. On the other hand, if you think that working to understand yourself and your relationships can be a story, then you’ll likely enjoy this book, as I did.
Ockham’s Razor is the tale of a relationship between two gay males within Mormon culture. More precisely, it tells a story of a gay teenage boy trying to figure out how to reconcile his homosexuality with his Mormon faith — and what happens when he meets up with an older gay male in Mormon culture who has already made his choices. It presents a fascinating contrast when read alongside Langford’s No Going Back, exploring what would happen if the older guy is only a couple years older (and out of the church) as opposed to being much older (and heavily personally invested in the idea of heterosexual-only marriage). To anyone who is trying to understand the psychology and mindset of gay men in modern Mormonism, I’d highly recommend both of these works, as they illustrate different facets of it.
Micah’s story is a bittersweet one. When he and Brendan are together, you can feel the passion of true love expanding to fill the whole universe. But when Brendan distances himself, Micah can’t stop second-guessing himself. He’s defensive when his Mormon mom hints that their relationship (being homosexual) isn’t real. And he’s obsessed with the Mormon idea that homosexuality is like drug addiction.
Actually, the central theme of the story is the question: “Are the Mormons right that homosexuality is like addiction?” Micah works at a detox center with two women who represent two different philosophies about dealing with addiction (comfortable harm-reduction vs. the cruel-to-be-kind hard-line approach). Micah doesn’t quite reach a conclusion about which of those two philosophies he prefers, and he never quite seems to answer his own question about homosexuality as an addiction. From my perspective, it looks quite clear that it’s not — Micah’s feelings towards Brendan are instantly recognizable as the same type of “in love” that anyone might feel. But considering that the story leaves the question open, I’d be curious to hear the reaction from Mormons who think homosexuality is like addiction — what would they think of this book?
The author also leaves Brendan’s perspective open to multiple interpretations. Micah wants to understand what Brendan is thinking and why he makes the choices he does. But he never quite figures it out. Maybe you will — just read the book and try for yourself! 😀