Monday, December 31, 2012

My Story -Part 1

I'm realizing that it's now been several months since I posted the preview for my story and I have yet to share any of my story. I plan to remedy that today by sharing the first part of my story. As of right now, I don't know how many parts of my story there will be. Just keep watching for them, and eventually I will end when I've gotten up to date.

As I start my story, I believe that in order to better know me, it is important to know my family as well. And so I would like to first introduce my parents.

My father, Michael Coon, was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, and grew up, for the most part, in Sandy, Utah. He was the only child that his parents had together. That's not to say he was an only child, as both had been previously married and had children with their former spouses. My grandma's other children also lived with my grandparents when my dad was born, and while he was growing up, so he had siblings around, though the one closest to him in age was nine years older than him.

My dad served an LDS mission in what was at the time the Central Canadian Mission, which mostly covered Alberta and Saskatchewan. He went on to get a degree in Commercial Art from Utah Tradetech (the predecessor to Salt Lake Community College). I consider him to be a very talented artist. He has worked in several different fields through his life, though the majority of it has been spent working in construction (primarily as a drywaller). My dad is also a movie buff, and knows a lot of trivia about movies and actors.

My mother, Cynthia Zobell, was also born in Salt Lake City, and grew up in the Cottonwood area (which has since been incorporated into Murray). She was the third of five children in her family, and the only girl. There was an age difference of several years between her and her next oldest brother, as well as her next youngest brother.

After high school she attended the University of Utah, going on to get a degree in Education with an emphasis in Early Childhood Development. She taught pre-school in our home for several years while her children were still young, later teaching at pre-school programs sponsored by the local district, and once all of her children had started school, she began teaching full-time as an elementary school teacher. I remember growing up that reading was a hobby of hers, and is probably something that I inherited from her.

My parents first met on a blind date. They dated for several months before being engaged. After a several month long engagement, they married in the Salt Lake Temple. They lived in a couple of different apartments in the year or so after they were first married, and by the time I was born a year and a half later, they had bought a home in Kearns, Utah.

My parents first started trying to have children soon after they were married. My mom's first two pregnancies ended in miscairrages, which was heartbreaking for both of my parents, but even more so for my mom. After the miscairrages, they took a break for a while to recover from the experiences. On their next attempt, I was concieved, and I was born a little over a year and a half after they married. My birth was welcome for this young family, but was not without its challenges.

My birth was not an easy one. I was a week overdue and weighed over nine pounds, which was quite challenging for a first-time mother to deliver. I also experienced some head trauma during my delivery, and had seizures during the first month or so of my life. I was fortunate that they stopped after that.

Beyond that, my infancy was probably unremarkable in most ways (though my parents might disagree, as raising the first child in a family generally tends to be an adventure). At any rate, I don't remember much of my "toddlerhood." My first memories start around the time I was two years old, and also coincide with the birth of my brother, Matt.

* * * * *

Though I have only gotten to the age of two years old, this seems like a good stopping point for now (though you can also blame it on the fact that I waited until it was rather late in the day to start writing this post). But I will continue on with my story in the coming weeks and months.

As this is my last blog post of the year, and it is New Year's Eve, I'd like to wish you a Happy New Year! I'll end with the following quote that I came across earlier today:

"Whether we want them or not, the New Year will bring new challenges; whether we seize them or not, the New Year will bring new opportunities."

May we all learn and grow from these challenges and opportunities that come with the New Year.

Monday, December 17, 2012

New LDS Website and Dialogue Within the Church

Earlier this month, the LDS Church launched a new website at the URL The site is titled, "Love One Another: A Discussion on Same-Sex Attraction." Overall, I have been impressed with this new website, which is landmark for the Church in several ways.

First, this is one of the first times that a statement by the Church or representatives of the Church have referred to gays and lesbians without being prefaced with "so-called" or "those that refer to themselves as" or something similar along those lines. I am pleased to see that the Church has learned to be more respectful in discussions with and about gays and lesbians. Some statements made in the past have sounded demeaning or offensive to people that embrace a gay identity. It's nice to see the Church changing the language used around this issue.

Second, this website encourages respect and inclusion of gay family members and others that make different choices concerning their sexuality than the Church counsels. In one of the videos posted on the website, Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles says, "let us be at the forefront in terms of expressing love, compassion and outreach...and...not have families exclude or be disrespectful of those who choose a different lifestyle."

Third, as also shown by Elder Cook's quote, the Church is encouraging members to reach out with love and compassion to gays and lesbians, as well as "respond[ing] sensitively and thoughtfully when they encounter same-sex attraction in their own families, among other Church members, or elsewhere." Although calling for compassion and love towards gays and lesbians is not completely new for the Church, this is the first time that this much emphasis has been placed on it.

That being said, I believe there is still room for improvement in how the Church approaches the subject. Some of the wording used in the website, while better than before, can still come off as demeaning to gays and lesbians. Some of this is due to the terminology used (and I could write a whole post just on terminology, and likely will some time soon), though some of it is just using a poor or awkward choice of words.

The website does emphasize that the doctrine concerning expression of sexuality remains the same. Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles says in one of the videos posted on the website, "the doctrine of the Church, that sexual activity should only occur between a man and a woman who are married, has not changed and is not changing. But what is changing and what needs to change is to help our own members and families understand how to deal with same gender attraction." The change that Elder Oaks refers to is much of what I've mentioned above: inclusion and respect of gay family members and others who choose not to follow the Church doctrine around sexuality, as well as increasing understanding among members of the Church that same-sex attraction itself is not chosen and is not sinful.

As regular readers of my blog will know, I am quite open about my sexuality. There is one place, however, where I have not been very open about it, and that is in my own ward. I have made my bishop and several others in leadership in my ward aware of my sexuality, but I haven't been open with my ward at large, because I haven't been sure how well members of my ward understand same-sex attraction. I haven't felt completely safe revealing this aspect of my life at church, though I should also state that this is in part due to the fact that I am still relatively new in my ward and haven't had the time to get to know very many members of my ward.

My hope is that as the discussion and dialogue around homosexuality increases in the Church (and as I get to know and trust the members of my ward) that I will find it safe to discuss my sexuality within my ward. Many members of wards that I have attended in the past have learned about my sexuality when I came out publicly earlier this year. Many responded to me with love and support. My hope is that I will receive the same type of response when I share this with my current ward (whenever that might be).

If you have any thoughts or insights on this new website or on dialogue within the Church concerning homosexuality, please share it with a comment. Let's keep the discussion going.

And as this is my last blog post before Christmas, I also want to take the time to wish all of you a Merry Christmas and an enjoyable holiday season! Best wishes to all of you.

Monday, December 3, 2012

A Brief Introduction to Change

This blog post will address what is likely the most controversial topic that I've discussed so far.

Last week, four men filed a lawsuit in New Jersey against a group that offers sexual orientation change therapy (SOCT). It was reported in the New York Times and was the topic of a radio show here in Salt Lake City.

In addition, SOCT was recently banned for the treatment of minors in California (as reported by the San Francisco Chronicle), and was also recently the topic of Dr. Oz's talk show.

Many people have very strong feelings both in favor and against it. Those in favor of it say that it is a valid option for those dissatisfied with their sexual orientations and that individuals have the right to choose it. Those opposed to it say that it is dangerous, entirely ineffective, and causes far more harm than good.

I touched on this briefly in my last blog post. As I said before, the only way to have a respectful dialogue is to allow all voices to be heard.

This is also a topic that I find myself somewhere in the middle. I have some experience going through such therapy. I personally did not find it effective in changing my sexual orientation, though I also do not see myself as being harmed by it. In fact, I learned a great deal about myself while going through therapy.

Having done research over the years, and through experiences with support and therapy groups, my views on SOCT and any other sexual orientation change effort (SOCE, which is not always limited to a therapeutic setting) have evolved. Homosexuality is a complex subject that is about far more than just sex, or even sexual attraction. It also involves emotional and social aspects. My personal belief about those who experience a diminishment in their attractions or change their sexual orientation is that they are those who have learned to re-frame their attractions and fill the emotional and social aspects of them, which in turn diminishes the sexual aspect of the attractions.

From my own personal experience with this, as well as what I have seen with others, it works only as long as the attractions remain viewed as being emotional and social and those aspects of them are filled. As long as they are, they sexual aspect of them can remain diminished, at times (for some) even to the point that they disappear. But when those aspects are no longer filled, the sexual aspect of the attractions will increase again. I see those that claim success as those that have learned to permanently and regularly keep the emotional and social aspects of their same-sex attractions filled. I also think the ability of individuals to do so varies greatly.

I tend to think that sexuality is much more fluid than a lot of people believe, and a lot less so than others believe. There do seem to be some people who have achieved change through therapy, as well as those who spontaneously change without even intending to do so. There are some cases of drastic change, as well as many more of some smaller shift.

I also believe that the word "change" is often a loaded word when speaking about sexual orientation or attractions. Two people can be speaking of change and mean very different things. Some only see successful change as a complete and permanent shift from exclusively homosexual attractions (or an exclusively homosexual orientation) to exclusively heterosexual attraction (or an exclusively heterosexual orientation). Others just see a lasting change is sexual behaviors as successful change. And then there's everything in between. I find it very frustrating when individuals argue about change without being clear on what definition of change they are using. This often only results in speaking past each other and results in further misunderstanding.

Those are my thoughts on what SOCE and change are, take them for what they are. I don't personally expect such a change in myself, nor do I see it as necessary. I do, however, find fulfillment in forming emotional connections   and having social interaction with other men. It doesn't make me straight, but when I do so regularly, it does seem to take the edge off of the sexual aspect of my homosexual attractions.

As far as the controversy over SOCT itself, I will say that while I am an avid advocate of self-determination when it comes to choices around sexuality, I do believe that there are a number that practice SOCT that don't do well at practicing informed consent (which explains the lawsuit). If those that practice this type of therapy were more clear on what change means, as well as what kind of change is realistic, it would save a lot of problems all around (to say the least).

As I said, SOCE is a very controversial topic, and I know I have only just begun to touch on it. There is a strong possibility I will have more posts on SOCE and change in the future. My hope is that this brief introduction has been enlightening to those that are not familiar with it, and opens the gates for respectful dialogue for those that do have varying views on it.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Report on AMCAP Conference: "Same-Sex Attraction: Reconciling Faith and Feelings

Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to go to a conference hosted by AMCAP (Association of Mormon Counselors And Psychotherapists). The Conference was titled: "Same-Sex Attraction: Reconciling Faith and Feelings." This post will report on the conference.

Before I give my report, I do want to acknowledge that for some the nature of this conference could be considered controversial in nature. Some would strongly disagree with many of the opinions expressed during the conference. In addition, this conference was more specifically about reconciling faith and feelings in the context of living according the current doctrine and standards of the LDS Church (which prohibits sexual behavior between those of the same sex).

Some that are reading this post may disagree with the views expressed in this conference. Different views are welcome, so long as they are expressed in a respectful manner. One of my purposes in writing this blog is to create respectful dialogue. If there is any question as to what respectful dialogue is, please refer to my post of the same name.

The conference was rather short, only lasting a few hours. It had no individual speakers, but instead consisted of two panel discussions. Before the panels started, the moderator made a few disclaimers: 1) the panels would not discuss politics, 2) there would be little to no discussion about the origins of homosexuality, and 3) having individuals on the panels that are in mixed-orientation marriages is in no way meant to suggest or promote the idea that marriage should be used as a solution or cure for homosexual feelings.

The first panel consisted of seven therapists. Four of them either currently or formerly experienced SSA (same-sex attraction) or identified as gay. The panelists were Laurie Campbell (author of "Born that Way" under the pen name Erin Eldridge), Ty Mansfield (co-author of "In Quiet Desperation," compiler and editor of "Voices of Hope" and co-founder and current vice-president of North Star International), David Matheson (co-creator of the Journey into Manhood experiential weekend and founder of the Center for Gender Wholeness), Josh Weed (author of "The Weed" blog), Shirley Cox (professor in the Department of Social Work at BYU), Jeffrey Robinson (contributing author to "Understanding Same-Sex Attraction: LDS Edition), and Justin McPheters (therapist at LDS Family Services).

With the exception of McPheters, I was familiar with or acquainted with all the members of the first panel. Campbell, Mansfield, Matheson and Weed are all either currently or formerly same-sex attracted or identify as gay and are all currently married to the opposite sex, while Cox, Robinson and McPheters have experience in their therapy practices counseling individuals experiencing SSA.

I did not take detailed notes of either of the panels (as I find that rather difficult to do with group discussions), although I did find it interesting that there were a variety of views on everything from labels to ideas on what change meant to whether change was possible. All of them had a variety of techniques and methods they use with their clients.

The second panel consisted of those that had personal experience with same-sex attraction, as well as the spouses of some of those that were married. Campbell, Mansfield, Matheson and Weed, along with their spouses, were all on the panel, along with a number of others, many of whom I am personally acquainted with.

The second panel discussion was much more personal and raw, with some of the members of the panel sharing very personal experiences. Several topics were discussed, including on deciding whether marriage was appropriate for an individual (the consensus being that it was a personal choice), how to come out or open up to loved ones, how to respond to loved ones that have come out, and how to respond to being misunderstood or hurt by others (including family members and church leaders).

Overall, I was impressed with the tone of the conference. Though AMCAP does hold a semi-annual convention for its members (which I have had the opportunity to attend several times as a student), and occasionally there are workshops that include the topic of homosexuality, this is the first time that AMCAP has attempted a conference with the main focus on homosexuality. It was voiced that this was hoped to be the first of many conferences on the subject.

As mentioned earlier, this conference was intended for those who wish to live according to the doctrines and standards of the LDS Church as they currently stand. Some may question why I dedicated a blog post to a conference that could easily be viewed as being one-sided or not allowing for all viewpoints. My answer is because this conference allowed viewpoints that are not necessarily welcome at other conferences or in other groups.

One voice in the spectrum around homosexuality that is often not welcome, and is often either silenced or even ridiculed is the one that supports change from a homosexual orientation. Many do not see this perspective as legitimate, and so they reject it.

Though overall I have been impressed with the broad spectrum included in Mormons Building Bridges and at the Circling the Wagons Conference, neither of them welcomed the view of the possibility that homosexuality was mutable. Instead, both of it have simply dismissed it using statements from the American Psychological Association that "there is insufficient evidence to support the use of psychological interventions to change sexual orientation" and end the discussion there.  

I believe that by not including the voice of SSA individuals seeking to change is exclusionary. It is a voice in this dialogue that has as much right to be heard as any other. The point of including a variety of voices and perspectives is not to persuade others to change their beliefs, but to create bridges of understanding. That is my purpose in writing this blog.

As I continue writing, the topic of change, as well as other controversial subjects is likely to come up again. It is my desire that those reading will continue to keep open minds, as well as open hearts, as these topics are discussed.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Report on Circling the Wagons Conference

Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to attend part of the Circling the Wagons Conference being held in Salt Lake City. This is the second such conference that has taken place in Salt Lake City.

Circling the Wagons exists to create "safe spaces for LGBTQ/SSA Mormons, their family, friends, and allies." As many of Circling the Wagons' purposes coincide with my own goals with this blog, such as "inviting LGBTQ/SSA step beyond historic divisions to establish a shared space where all...can speak truthfully and respectfully" and "welcom(ing) all who wish to participate in a spirit of fellowship and openness, with condemnation for none and compassion for all, in hopes that all a basis for common ground," I feel it appropriate to share my experiences and give a report of the conference.

More information can be found on Circling the Wagons by visiting their website at

I was able to attend the first few hours of the main session on Saturday, as well as the Interfaith Service on Sunday. Throughout the conference, I was impressed with the fact that such diverse views could be expressed, while at the same time showing respect for the views of others with differing beliefs.

The first speaker that I heard was Joseph Bloom. Joseph spoke about the recent controversy around some of the speakers chosen for the conference. He reviewed the purposes for the conference, and stated that each person needs to be able to speak their truth. He spoke of how it can be frustrating to be pre-judged, rejected, marginalized or have others decide one's truth should be. He emphasized that the conference was a place where all are welcome and invited to speak their truth.

He then went on to speak of his belief in Circling the Wagons' mission and how we have an opportunity to step beyond historical divisions to come to a space where all can speak truthfully and respectfully. He then shared his own story.

The next speaker was Josh Weed. I have previously read Josh's blog and met him when he was in Salt Lake a couple of months ago for a fireside, and I was looking forward to hearing him speak again. Josh came out of the closet as a gay Mormon that is happily married to a woman in his blog back in June. As a result, his blog went viral.

Josh started by acknowledging that there were a number of people that didn't want him speaking at the conference, after which he went on to acknowledge that his blog has been misused by (mostly) well-meaning members of the Church to pressure gay or SSA family members to take the same path that he has. He apologized for how his blog had been misused and rebuked those that had done so, clearly saying, "Back off!" He made it very clear that using his blog to reject family members that choose differently is the exact opposite of unconditional love.

He then spoke of the need for authenticity in any meaningful friendship or relationship, and how shallow and superficial they are without it. He also spoke of the need everyone has to be loved. He emphasized that rather than condemning the choices of those we disagree with, we should show our love for them. If we dig deep, tear down our biases and prejudices, and show love, we can build bridges, create safe spaces, and develop a dialogue that is safe and respectful.

The third and final speaker of the first session was Allen Miller. Allen stated that through conversation and discourse we can develop a respectful dialogue. He related Christ's teaching that the spirit of contention is of the devil. Allen emphasized that silencing the voices we disagree with will do nothing to create a safe space for everyone.

He continued by pointing out that many people express love and support on the surface, only to negate most of it by using the word "but" and stating why they believe that person is wrong. He stated that God grants his grace to all regardless of sexual orientation, and that He is no respecter of persons. Allen closed by saying that God does not intend for His children to be alone, and that whether it be a partner or a friend, we all need companionship.

Next at the conference were several break-out sessions. I chose to attend the panel on marriage as I knew the moderator as well as two of the men on the panel. I was impressed by the way the moderator started the panel, emphasizing that it was a dialogue of respect, and not an attempt to change others.

There were four men on the panel, all of whom identified as either SSA or gay. Two of the men were currently in marriages with women, while two were in marriages with men (though one had formerly been married to a woman). There were differences in these men's experiences in the choices they made around marriage and religion. Though there were far more similarities.

Following the breakout sessions there was another series of speakers, the first two of whom I had an opportunity to hear before I had to leave due to other commitments.

The first of these speakers was Steven Frei. Steven is currently the president of North Star and he took the first few minutes of his talk to describe what North Star's purpose was, as well as how he first came across the organization. He spoke of how for him and many others that felt a conviction to keep the covenants they had made in the Church that North Star is a voice of hope.

He also spoke about how maintaining friendships with those that have taken different paths than our own in their search for happiness can be a blessing in our lives. He closed by emphasizing the importance of showing love to all.

The last speaker I was able to hear that day was Erika Munson. Erika is the founder of Mormons Building Bridges. Erika spoke of how an LDS ward can be much like a small town for both better and worse. In building bridges, she spoke of the importance of practicing empathy, loyalty and hope.

She went on to state that meaningful relationships can make a difference in how we see others in our wards and in our communities. She spoke of many in the Church that practice the principles mentioned that want to do know more, and only need an opportunity to do so. She hopes that Mormons Building Bridges does just that.

While I did not take detailed notes at Sunday's Interfaith Service, I did notice a common theme. The three speakers came from varied backgrounds, and each had experience in the leadership of their various churches. But all focused on the importance of faith and spirituality, be that in finding and creating sacred spaces, trusting that God's love changes everything, or finding peace and support from God.

Overall, the conference was a positive experience for me. It also helped me to see that I am not as alone as I sometimes believe in my goal of building bridges of dialogue and understanding. There are a number of people out there who are working toward the same thing.

Although there are some areas that my goals differ from those of Circling the Wagons', I've found that it is an excellent place to find others also seeking the same respectful dialogue around these controversial and complex issues.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Bisexuality Part 3 - Biphobia

Most people are familiar with the term, homophobia. It is an aversion, prejudice, hatred or irrational fear of homosexuality or homosexuals. I don't recall when I first heard the term homophobia, but I have at least known of it most of my adult life, and I have also experienced it. In the past I had an aversion and fear of others I perceived to be gay (which only ended when I pushed through this fear and got to know those I feared or misunderstood). But I have also been on the other side; I've been the one who was feared or disliked or even hated because of sex of those to whom I am attracted to.

I could do a whole post just on homophobia, as I have plenty of experience on both sides of it. But that is a post for another time. The topic of this post is a much lesser known, yet just as prevalent term, biphobia.

The definition of biphobia is similar to the definition of homophobia; it is an aversion, prejudice, hatred or irrational fear of bisexuality or bisexuals. Unlike homophobia, I do remember when I first heard the term biphobia.

I mentioned a couple of months ago in my post titled "Respectful Dialogue" that I attended a Diversity class as part of the social work program I went through in graduate school. In this class there was another man that was also bisexual. When he did his presentation on his Diversity, he spoke about biphobia and other problems that bisexuals experience in the ways that others react to them. At the time, biphobia was a rather novel idea to me. I'd heard of homophobia by this time, but I realized that biphobia was an issue I was affected by just as much (which I will get into shortly).

There are two primary ways in which biphobia is manifested: denial that it exists and the assumption of promiscuity. I discussed some of the ways in which denial of bisexuality can happen in my last post on myths and stereotypes. But to sum it up, it is the assumption that all or most bisexuals are confused, undecided, insecure, experimenting, going through a phase, or transitioning to a gay identity.

I also touched on the assumption of promiscuity in my last post, which is the assumption that all bisexuals cheat on their partners, are unhappy unless having multiple sex partners at the same time, lead double lives, and are sexually insatiable.

Unlike most phobias (such as claustrophobia, the fear of enclosed spaces), homophobia and biphobia are not considered psychological disorders. Rather, they are a form of prejudice, and they fall in the same category as xenophobia (fear or hatred of foreigners), sexism and racism.

In fact, there are a couple of other terms that go right along with them. The first is heterosexism, which is closely associated with homophobia, and places heterosexual relationships and practices as superior to those that are homosexual.

The second is monosexism. This one is closely associated with biphobia, and places relationships and practices with one sex (whether heterosexual or homosexual) as superior to relationships and practices with multiple sexes.

Except when internalized, homophobia is almost exclusively exhibited by those that are straight. Biphobia, on the other hand, is exhibited by both those that are gay or lesbian and straight. While going through one of my internships during graduate school, there was a therapist that was gay-friendly, but biphobic. He claimed that he didn't believe in bisexuality, only try-sexuality (meaning those that will try anything). His views showed both forms of biphobia.

On the other hand, I have also also been told by a friend that is gay that because I mentioned my bisexuality to often (in his opinion), that he questioned whether I was really bisexual, but rather gay and in denial about it. I have also been told by both him and others I know that are gay, that I should just accept myself as gay. These views show the denial form of biphobia.

I have experienced the assumption of promiscuity form of biphobia from gay men in another way. I have known several gay men that have been wary (if not completely opposed) to dating or having a relationship with a bisexual man because they know or have heard of a bisexual man who has cheated on his partner. Therefore, they assume that all bisexual men will either cheat or want to cheat on them.

From what I can see, most people don't see biphobia as a problem because they are either not aware of it, or they do not understand it or its impact on bisexuals. My hope is that as more people are made aware that biphobia exists and that it negatively impacts bisexuals, it will be more readily confronted and decreased, much as is happening with homophobia.

I hope that my series on bisexuality has been informative and educational. I know that just researching and writing these posts have been for me. If you want to participate more in the discussion on bisexuality, or want clarification or have a question about something I've said about it, please either post a comment or send me a message. Thank you for reading.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Bisexuality Part 2 - Myths & Stereotypes

In my last post, I discussed what bisexuality is. In this post, I will be discussing what bisexuality isn't, meaning I will be discussing the myths and stereotypes about bisexuality.

While reviewing information for this post, I came across a lot more mistaken ideas about bisexuality than I realized existed. Just when I think I've heard or read everything, I come across something new. In this post, I will discuss the most common myths and stereotypes, as well as a few of those that are less common. If there are any that you feel I have missed, feel free to add them in a comment.
  • There is no such thing as a bisexual. People are either gay or straight, with nothing in between.
I've lost track of how many times I've heard or been told this. A lot of people, especially in Western culture, like to be able to see things as either black or white; or they want to be able to put everything into neat boxes or categories. For many of these people, bisexuality just doesn't fit.

In reality, the world is not just black and white. It is all or nothing. And though they may not realize that they are doing it, those that deny the existence of bisexuality are also denying the experiences of millions of people that feel attraction to both men and women.
  • Bisexuals are confused or uncertain about their sexuality.
I've also had people that I've told that I'm bisexual tell me that I'm confused; that I was really either gay or straight, but I hadn't figured out which. I get told that I don't know what I want.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. The truth for me (as well as for most people that identify as bisexual) is that I know exactly what I'm attracted to. For me, there is no confusion; I am attracted to men and women.
  • Bisexuality is only a phase.
This myth can be more difficult to dispel than others as there are some that use the label bisexual as a transition of sorts in the process of coming out as gay. There are also others who are either gay or straight who are curious who may identify as bisexual or bi-curious while exploring sexuality.

While it is true that identifying as bisexual may be a phase for some, for the vast majority of bisexuals, it is as enduring a sexual orientation as it is for those that are gay or straight. Ever since I've recognized what sexual attractions are, I have felt them towards both men and women.
  • To be bisexual, a person must be attracted to both sexes equally.
This myth is similar to the myth that bisexuality does not exist, in that it tends to be believed by those that like to have things in neat boxes or categories.

It is true that there are bisexuals that are equally attracted to both sexes, but there are also many that have different degrees of attraction to each sex (such as myself). While some that fall in this category may choose to identify as either gay or straight, or may choose to only have relationships with one sex, not all do. For some (such as myself), identifying as gay would be denying their heterosexual attractions; and for others, identifying as straight would be denying their homosexual attractions.
  • Bisexuals are incapable of being faithful to one person in a relationship.
This is a stereotype that I've heard a lot as well. A number of people seem to be under the impression that because one is attracted to both men and women, that means they won't be satisfied unless having sexual relationships with both men and women.

People that believe this myth are often confusing bisexuality with polyamory. In reality, bisexuals are no different than gays or straights in the ability of forming lasting and faithful relationships. Bisexuals may also choose to be in open relationships, to be celibate, to be promiscuous, or to cheat on a partner, just as someone who is gay or straight may. A person's ability to be faithful in a relationship is not determined by their sexual orientation.
  • Bisexuals are more accepted by the straight/gay community.
I discussed this a little in my last post. I think what is closer to the truth is that bisexuals are often more easily able to pass as gay or straight in each respective community.

The vast majority of those in both the straight and gay communities have been accepting of me once they have found out that I am bisexual. But I have also had a number of those from each group that has been less welcoming of me, or has expressed one of the myths or stereotypes that has been discussed in this post.

Myths and stereotypes are not unique to bisexuals. Virtually every minority group that exists has its myths and stereotypes.

I am also sure that there are also other myths and stereotypes that I haven't discussed. If you know of or can think of any others, please share it in a comment to this post.

Be sure to come back in two weeks, when I will be discussing biphobia, which will be the third and final post in my series on bisexuality.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Bisexuality Part 1 - What is Bisexuality?

Yesterday, as I was looking up information to include in this post, I became aware that it was "Celebrate Bisexuality" Day. I had been considering doing a post on bisexuality (which is how I happened across the information). Even though it doesn't relate as directly to the main theme of my blog as some other topics, bisexuality is something that I personally experience, and I think it's something that is frequently misunderstood, not only in society as a whole, but to some extent, even within the LGBT community. And so when I learned that yesterday was Celebrate Bisexuality Day, it confirmed to me that now is the time to write about bisexuality.

In reveiwing the information I want to include, I have decided that there is too much to be included in one concise post. This will be the first of a three part series of posts on bisexuality. Part Two will be about the myths and stereotypes concerning bisexuality. And Part Three will be about biphobia.

When I first heard about Celebrate Biseuality Day, I was pleasantly surprised, though for me, I'd be more pleased with a Bisexuality Awareness Day. By that, I would hope for a day that people became more aware not only that bisexuals exist, but also aware of exactly what bisexuality is.

Bisexuality is defined as the romantic, sexual or emotional attraction or behavior toward males and females. As behaviors are more likely to be situational based on a variety of factors, my focus on this post will be on attractions.

A person who identifies as bisexual is one who is romantically, sexually or emotionally attracted toward males and females, regardless of whether they participate in romantic or sexual behavior with individuals of both sexes.

The American Institute of Bisexuality has the following to say concerning bisexuality:
Bisexuals are people who have the innate capacity to form enduring physical, romantic and/or emotional attractions to those of the same gender or to those of another gender. There may be an individual preference for one gender over others. Bisexuality is not synonymous with being polyamorous. Individual bisexual people may be celibate, monogamous or non-monogamous just as individual straight, lesbian or gay people can be.
In my experience, bisexuals often appear to me much less visible in society than those that are straight, gay or lesbian. I believe that this is in large part because for many, it's easy to assume thier sexual orientation based on the sex of their spouse or partner. Many assume that if a person is in an opposite-sex relationship that they are straight, and if they are in a same-sex relationship that they are gay. I have had people assume this about me when I have been dating. And I have been guilty of this myself at times, only to later find out that the person I assumed was gay or straight was actually bisexual.

There was a time I found myself almost gravitating to others that I learned were bisexual. Because these were others that could truly relate to my experience. While others that were attracted to only one sex could sympthize with me, other bisexuals were those that knew what I felt from experience.

I have at times have had people tell me that I am lucky to be bisexual. And I suppose that in some ways they may be right. But while some may see being bisexual as the best of both worlds, I also see it as being the worst of both worlds.

Before I was out, and even now when I'm in a group that doesn't specifically know my sexual orientation, when I am with a group that is predominantly straight, the assumption is generally that I am straight, even though I really am not. Likewise, when I am in a group that is predominantly gay, often the assumption is that I am gay, even though I really am not (there have actually been times when I've been in a predominantly gay group and been asked if I was straight, but that is a discussion for another time).

In a sense, I am both gay and straight, and yet I am neither. I can usually pass as either without even trying, but althogh I feel welcome, I don't feel quite that I'm a part of either group.

For example, when I'm with a group of straight guys that are talking to each other about the women that they are checking out that they think are hot, I can't often relate. My hetersosexual attractions don't generally work that way. At the same time, when I'm with a gay friend who's talking about how gross or disgusting he finds the female anatomy, I also can't relate. I do have heterosexual attractions, and I don't find the female anatomy gross or disgusting.

But these are my experiences. Other bisexuals might find themselves relating to either experience depending on the nature of their attractions to either sex.

I once asked another bisexual man that I'd recently met whether he was equally attracted to men and women, or whether the attractions to one was stronger than the other. His response was: "It's apples and oranges."

I didn't really understand what he was saying at the time, though I have a much better idea now, particularly since I've come to see my own attractions in much the same way. I used to think of my attractions to men as being stronger than my attractions to women; now I just see them as different.

For those familiar with the Kinsey Scale, I don't feel like it works very well for me. For me attractions to one sex don't decrease as attractions to the other sex increase. For me (and for others I've spoken to), they work independant of one another.

While it is true that physical and sexual attraction to men usually comes much faster for me and that there are many more men that I find attractive than women, that does nothing to diminish my attraction to women when it is there. For there have been both men and women for whom I have felt strong physical, sexual and emotional attraction.

Some would tell me that because I more readily notice men that I find attractive than women, that I would be better off as identifying as gay. But for me, "gay" has never felt like a good fit. For me, it denies the heterosexual attractions that I do have. If I am to be true to myself and honest about my attractions, bisexual is the identity that fits best for me.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Respectful Dialogue

When I was in grad school for social work, one of the classes I took during my first semester was called "Diversity". I'll admit that at first I was somewhat apprehensive about taking this class. I had come from a conservative background, and had heard from others, who at some point have had to take diversity trainings or classes, who had negative experiences with them.

Despite the fact that the class was about forming respect and understanding for all, I wasn't sure that I would be respected or understood. By this point in my life, I had already seen that there were a lot of people and groups out there calling out for acceptance and tolerance for who they were and what they believed, but often did not extend it to others who were different from them in either who they were or what they believed.

I had noticed this in particular when it came to the topics of religion and homosexuality, both of which were topics very close to me. Here I was, a believing Mormon who experienced same-sex attraction (which was how I identified at that time). If I were to reveal these aspects of myself, would my diversity be respected and accepted? Or would I get the same messages I'd received in the past that unless I lived in a certain way, I wasn't being true to myself?

In spite of the concerns I had going into this Diversity class, it turned out to be a very positive experience for me. The basis of all discussions in that class was respectful dialogue.

In the first few weeks of the class, we were all given the opportunity to present our own diversity. At this point, I hadn't quite developed the rapport or trust with my fellow classmates to open up about my sexuality, though I was open about my religion. For while I wasn't the only Mormon in the class, and I wasn't the only "sexual minority" in the class, I was the only one that was both.

As the weeks went on, my skepticism faded away and I saw that there was a respectful dialogue in the classroom. And over time as I got to know the others in my class, I also began to feel accepted by them.

Each week, we discussed different topics in this class, including race, gender, ethnicity, religion, and disabilities. It wasn't until closer to the end of the semester that the topic of sexual orientation was discussed. By this time, I knew I was ready to open up about myself and provide my own perspective.

By this time, I'd already discussed my sexuality in papers I'd written for the class, so our professor was aware of my sexuality and my beliefs. A week or so before the class discussion on sexual orientation, I spoke to her privately, and let her know that I wanted to open up about myself. I asked for her feedback. She thought that it would fit well in the discussion, and told me that she'd give me an opportunity to speak if that's what I wanted.

The week that we had the class discussion on sexual orientation also shortly followed the passage of an amendment to the Utah State Constitution banning same-sex marriage and civil unions. I remember several in the class expressing their frustration at its passage. Much of the discussion was focused on how its passage affected those that were gay or lesbian. I began to feel more and more nervous as the discussion went on.

But I realized that this was still something I needed to do. And when the opportunity came, I spoke. Though I no longer remember my exact words, I said something along these lines:

"I'm an active believing member of the LDS Church and I'm attracted to men. Because of my beliefs, I choose not to act on these attractions."

That opened up a dialogue about a perspective that many of my classmates had never before considered. Several of them thanked me for my courage to open up about myself. And it also lead to me building some new friendships.

For the rest of my time in that class, I was able to speak openly about myself and my opinion and perspective. During a group project on the military draft at the end of the term, I was able to add another perspective about the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that would not have been discussed otherwise.

This class, probably more than anything else, has been what has prompted me to work toward opening a respectful dialogue with those of differing opinions and beliefs. After this class ended, I did start to make an effort to reach out to others in the GLBT community. As I was doing so while at the same time remaining publicly "closeted" about my sexuality, I only had limited success at the time. But it did give me experience in starting respectful dialogues.

Over the coming weeks and months, I will likely be posting more on topics that are more controversial and polarized. As I do, there will likely be those reading my blog that feel strongly about these issues on one side or another. As we discuss these topics, my desire is that we maintain a respectful dialogue. The point is not to change someone else's mind, but to hear and understand them and respect their right to hold their opinions.

As always, I welcome feedback on my posts. Your comments are a big part of what gets the dialogue going, so please share your thoughts and opinions on what I've written.

Monday, August 27, 2012

My Story -Preview

Once again, it's been two weeks since I last posted. I'm still getting a feel for how frequently I do want to post. Originally, I had planned on posting more frequently. I do enjoy writing, although I'm realizing that with everything I have going on in my life right now, it can get to be more time-consuming than I had originally anticipated. And even though I have several topics for discussion in mind, until I have some more ideas, I don't want to use them up too quickly.

So for now, I may stick with posting every other week. Though if there is enough interest, and I find more to post about, I will consider posting more frequently.

For those of you following my blog that are friends with me on Facebook, I will continue to post links when I update my blog.

Now that I've got the logistics out of the way, on to the topic I want to post about today.

Shortly after I published my first post on this blog, a friend of mine that I used to work with told me that she enjoyed reading what I wrote because it gave her a chance to get to know me better. I was pleased to hear that. As I've mentioned before, when I was keeping this part of my life so secret, I was also limiting the opportunity for others to get to know me.

That isn't to say that others didn't know me at all. But throughout my teen years, I was so terrified of being found out that I hid it, along with a lot of other things about myself that I thought might give hints of it to others, so deeply that nobody would ever find it.

The result was that I was very slow to open up to others, even those who had been my friends for years. I imagine to those that knew me even less well, I either came off as painfully shy or stand-offish (both of which had some truth in them).

But I've found that as I have opened up with others and let them get to know the real me (rather than the "mask" I had put on for so long), that I've created some meaningful friendships. In trying to protect myself from potentially being rejected by others, I had been robbing myself of the opportunity to be authentic and let others get to know me.

Shortly after I first found support online, I wrote out my "story." I shared with those I trusted my experiences of first noticing my attractions and how I dealt with it. I shared the parts of me that I normally kept carefully hidden.

It turned out to be a rewarding experience. I found that there were others that could either relate to my experiences or feelings, or, like the friend I mentioned earlier, it gave others the chance to get to know the "real" me.

I plan on taking that a step further with my blog by telling my story in a series of posts. So over the next few months, if you follow my blog, you will have the opportunity to get to know me, my life, and what I've experienced.

As always, I appreciate feedback on my blog. I love the comments I receive on the links I post on Facebook for my blog posts, and I would ask that you also leave a comment here on the blog itself. Thank you for reading and contributing to the discussion.

Monday, August 13, 2012

My Experience with "Coming Out"

Welcome back. I'm still figuring out some of the details of how frequently I plan to post on my blog, as well as if I should post on a set schedule. Until I figure out these details, my posts may come at random intervals (though I'll probably generally not let two weeks pass between posts again). So until I figure more out, just bear with me. And now, on to my post.

Four months ago yesterday, I took the final step in coming out publicly about my sexual orientation. Since that time, I have wanted to write up something more detailed explaining why I decided to come out, as well as what kind of response I received when I did come out. This blog post will do just that.

The following is the letter I posted to my Facebook wall on April 12th:

My name is Adam Coon. I am Mormon, and I am bisexual.

Several days ago I posted a link to a video created by a BYU student group in which several BYU students shared their stories of being Mormon and coming to terms with their sexuality. The courage these men and women showed in coming out publicly about their sexuality while attending BYU inspired me to open up about my own sexuality. Though I h
ave never attended BYU, and my attractions are bisexual, otherwise the stories shared could easily be my own.

When I was a young teenager, I first started becoming aware that I was different than other boys, in that I had an interest in other guys that my friends did not share. My response to becoming aware of my attractions was the same as many in the video. Growing up, I had received the message from society, the culture I lived in, and everyone else around me that homosexuality was an immoral perversion. So I tried to suppress my attractions. And when that didn't work, I tried prayer and righteousness. Yet my attractions remained unchanged. As a result, I went through years of feeling shame because of how I felt and who I was attracted to.

Over the years since that time, I have been coming to terms with my sexual orientation and who I am. I no longer feel ashamed of who I am, or who I am attracted to. I know that I have value and worth, and that I have friends and family who value and love me. Just as importantly, I have come to believe that God loves and values me.

To some of you, this information may come as a surprise. Others of you may have suspected, but not said anything to me. And many others of you already know and have shown me love and support over the years.

Some of you may be shocked--or even strongly disagree--about my decision to come out publicly about my sexual orientation. Please know that this is not a decision that I have made lightly, and that this is something I have been contemplating for a number of years. I have long been tired of the secrecy. But it is only now that I finally feel ready to face the fears of being open about this part of my life.

There may be some of you that don't understand what I mean when I say I am bisexual. Some of you may make assumptions about what that means about how I live my life. And some of you may decide you no longer want to associate with me or be my friend because of my decision to be open about this.

But I also have hope that many more of you will continue to support and accept me. I have hope that you will know that I am still the same person that you have always known, only now more open and authentic about who I am.

Some of you may have questions for me. And I invite you to ask. I welcome dialogue around this issue.

Though I still have some fear about the responses I will get to this announcement, I am much more excited to face my life in an open, honest and authentic manner. I am eager to go forward and find out what my life has in store for me.

Adam Coon
As mentioned in this post, coming out publicly wasn't a spontaneous decision for me. In fact, I've had thoughts about being open about my sexuality off and on for the last eight or nine years.

As I also mentioned in the post, I felt a lot of shame about my sexuality when I was growing up. In addition to all the messages I got, I also felt incredibly alone and different from everyone else around me. I was already very shy during my childhood. The shame and "terminal uniqueness" I felt about my sexuality once I first started becoming aware of it during my teenage years only increased the isolation I felt.

It was ten years ago that I first came across support groups for Mormons experiencing same-sex attractions that wanted to keep the standards of the LDS Church (particularly concerning sexuality). I first found online groups, and later attended groups in person. When I first started getting involved with these groups, I remember how amazed and thrilled I felt that I was no longer alone. I had finally met, and was beginning to make friends with others who understood what I was feeling. I'd finally found a place where I didn't have to keep a part of myself secret from everyone and where I no longer felt so different.

Although these groups were helpful for me initially, it did not take long before I reached the point where I once again began feeling different from almost everyone around me. I could be open in the groups I was in, but all of the rest of the time, I still felt like I had to keep this part of my life a secret. Over time, I realized that what I was feeling (i.e. shame and being so different from others) was in large part because I wasn't allowing myself to be authentic when I wasn't in my groups. My groups had turned into the only place I could really be myself.

At this time I started having thoughts about being open in my life about my sexuality. But nearly every time I mentioned this to a friend from a support group, or to one of my leaders in the Church, this idea was always shot down. I followed the advice of my friends and leaders, although I never felt that my reasons for wanting to be open were ever really fully understood.

I eventually decided that when I did came out (and I knew by this time that it was now a "when" rather than an "if"), it would have to be because I knew it was what was right for me, regardless of what anyone else thought. But then I realized that I was still my own biggest obstacle to coming out. There was a part of me that feared others' reactions, that it would change the way others thought of me. And there was also the fact that once I did come out publicly, there would be no easy way of going back if I later changed my mind.

Over the years, I got a lot of practice with coming out to those I was close to. In time, I'd told all of my immediate family. I'd also told many of my closest friends. I was soon living my life in such a way that I wasn't keeping my sexuality a secret, though I also wasn't broadcasting it either. I even came to a point where I was able to be open about  my sexuality at work.

I eventually received the final nudge after watching the experiences of others as they came out. After watching the video I mentioned in my post, I knew that it was finally my time. And so I composed the letter, ran it by a couple of close friends, and then posted it on Facebook.

The response I received was more incredible than I could ever have imagined!

Overall, I received an overwhelmingly positive response of love and support, more than I was ever expecting. I even received support from extended family members and childhood friends that were at one point among those that I most feared telling.

There were some that encouraged me to live LDS standards, while still expressing their love and acceptance of me regardless of how I chose to live my life. But there was also a very small minority that expressed some criticism about my letter. One told me he questioned whether I was being authentic because I chose to use the term bisexual rather than Same Gender Attraction, which is the more commonly accepted term in LDS culture. And another told me that I should have made a stand that I was "living the gospel" so that all my "gay-affirming friends" would not assume that I was now looking for a gay relationship (I found it puzzling in particular as to why this would be the automatic assumption when I used the term "bisexual," and have never identified myself as gay).

I will say now that using the term bisexual and not speaking about what my choices were around my sexuality was very intentional. Saying that I was bisexual was a much simpler way of describing my sexuality than saying, "I experience same-sex attraction, although I am also attracted to women." And my choices around my sexuality were not the reason I had decided to come out. My decision to come out was to get rid of that last bit of shame around my sexual orientation that kept popping up in my life because I was still keeping it a secret.

And in spite of a few criticisms, overall my decision to be open about this has been a very positive thing in my life. After getting rid of the shame and the feeling of being different, the best thing that has come of it has been the ability to openly be part of the dialogue that I have dreamed about for so long and is now finally happening.

And that is the more detailed explanation of the "hows" and "whys" of my coming out process, as well as the effect it has had on me and my life. But if there is still something that is unclear or that you would like to know, feel free to ask me.

Also, if you have ideas for topics to discuss in my upcoming blog posts, please let me know. There is so much to discuss around this issue, and I'm sure I won't think of every possible topic on my own.

Monday, July 30, 2012


Welcome to my blog. For those that don't know, I am Mormon, and I am bisexual. While I've always been open about my religious background and my spiritual beliefs, it was only in April that I became completely open about my sexual orientation. A number of factors led up to my decision to "come out" publicly about this, and I will share more about this experience in an upcoming post.

I grew up as an active member of the LDS faith, though I only started to come to terms with my sexuality in the last 15 years. When I was younger, I had a lot of fear and misunderstanding about others that openly identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual. Part of it was fear about being outed, but part of it was simply not really knowing anyone very well who used these labels. I was very committed to not acting on my attractions to men, and felt threatened by those who were comfortable with their sexuality.

As time went on, I met more and more gay, lesbian and bisexual people. As I did, I gradually learned that many of the ideas I had about them, how they lived their lives, and what they believed, were simply not true. I came to see that, even while abstaining from homosexual behaviors and relationships, I had much more in common with them than I had originally realized.

I also came to see just how polarized the issue of homosexuality is in society as well, on everything from what caused it (i.e.nature or nurture), to whether changing one's sexual orientation was possible, to support of gay rights. I found myself in an interesting place where I was able to see and understand the perspective of those with differing views of the issue. I also saw many of each group that really had faulty ideas about what those of opposing views believed or stood for.

As mentioned, I am a member of the LDS faith, and as such, often saw members of my church at odds with those in the LGBT community. In addition, by this time I was also closely aligned with another community.

Among those experiencing homosexual attractions, there is another group: those that choose not to participate in romantic or sexual relationships or behaviors with those of the same sex. Most also choose not to identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual, but instead prefer to refer to themselves as experiencing same sex attraction (or SSA). For the purposes of this post and my blog, this group will be referred to as the SSA community. It was through the SSA community that I first found support from others that could relate to what I was experiencing.

At this point in my life, I am associated with all three groups: Mormon, SSA, and LGBT. Though due to my stance, I often feel on the fringes of both the SSA and the LGBT communities, and occasionally even at odds with them.

Perhaps brought on in part by my educational background in social work, I developed a strong desire to create dialogue between those with opposing views on the issue. I wanted to build bridges of mutual respect and understanding. At the time, I was far from ready to come out openly about my sexual orientation, though I had told most of my family and closest friends. But being in the metaphorical closet, I found myself limited in what I could do to create such dialogue. I corrected misconceptions I saw when they came up around me. I wrote letters to the editor of local newspapers using an alias when the issue came up in the media. But I found there was little more I could do.

Since I came out publicly a few months ago, I have found myself in a position to do much more. When I initially came out, it opened up some dialogue, though I found it fizzled down rather quickly. This blog is my next step to keep the dialogue going.

And so, I invite comments, questions and discussion on my blog. The only thing I ask is that it be kept respectful. My intention with this dialogue is not necessarily to change minds, but to open them. There will always be things that people will disagree on, but it is my hope and my dream that we will all be able to come to a place of mutual respect and understanding.

I want to close by sharing the following quote:

"I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it." -Voltaire

In many areas of my life, this has become my mantra. It is my hope for all of us that regardless of whether we personally agree with others, that we will come to respect and defend their right to speak what they believe.