Monday, November 18, 2013

Report on 2013 Reconciling Faith & Feelings Conference

It's been a few months since my last blog post. I think in some ways it has been good for me to take a break. Now rather than posting because it's time to write a new post, I can post because I have something I want to write about.

Over this last weekend, the 2nd Annual Reconciling Faith & Feelings Conference was held in Provo, UT. The purpose of this conference is to provide a discussion for those that experience homosexual attractions and have a desire to live their lives according to the doctrines and teachings of the LDS Church. The format of the conference was a series of panel discussions in which the panelists would first be asked questions by the moderator, and would then have the opportunity to answer questions that had been asked by members of the audience. Members of the panels included those who personally experience same-sex attraction, along with spouses, parents, ecclesiastical leaders and counselors that have in some way been affected by homosexuality.

As was the case with last year's conference, I did not take notes as I find it difficult to take notes on panel discussions. What I report here is what I remember, and what my thoughts and impressions on the panels were. I'm also not going to report chronologically or what was said in specific panels (as I don't remember which panels everything was said in).

There were three different panels. The first panel consisted of those who personally experienced same sex attractions, and in the case of some of those who were married, their spouses. The second panel had a broad mix of individuals in all the categories I mentioned earlier. And the the third panel consisted of therapists who had experience counseling those experiencing same-sex attraction (some of whom also experienced SSA themselves).

The topic of change was addressed with the panelists being asked what change means to them. I was most impressed with David Matheson's response. He said that how change has been defined in relation to sexuality has changed over the last 20 to 25 years. It used to be that change meant changing one's attractions from primarily or exclusively homosexual to primarily or exclusively heterosexual attractions. He acknowledged that while this may happen for some, it is not the case for all. He stated that the issue is much more complex and that change can now mean a variety of things, and that the goal of therapy for those seeking counseling for unwanted same-sex attraction is not necessarily to shift the attractions, but to understand them and to change how one responds to them.

Another topic addressed was how to address attractions. For years the attitude in Mormon culture has been that homosexuality is something to be hidden, suppressed, and something that shouldn't be acted on. I heard that idea countered numerous times during the conference. At one point Ty Mansfield stated that it needs to be acted on, meaning that ignoring or suppressing would just increase the stress and anxiety surrounding it, and that there are healthy ways to address it within the context of living the principles of the gospel.

Another question concerned opening up to others about experiencing SSA. There were a variety of opinions on this, though there was a consensus that it should be shared to reduce the shame about the feelings. Some of the panelists suggested for those who have not opened up about it, that sharing it with a few trusted friends or family members was the best way to start out. It was also pointed out that there are also many who are completely open about it, having participated in Voices of Hope videos or essays, or through personal blogs about the topic.

The topic of how to respond to those in same-sex relationships also came up (whether they be friends or family members). Several spoke of continuing to show love and acceptance, and that one could do so without changing or compromising their values or beliefs. This had a lot of meaning for me, as it has only been about a year since I was in this position myself, and it was those that showed me love and acceptance that made it much easier for me to come back when the time came that I decided to re-commit myself to living the standards of the Church. In fact, without those that showed me love and acceptance during that time, I don't know for sure that I would have made the changes in my life and ended up where I am at now.

Another topic that had meaning for me was a question of how to come back to full activity in the Church after having spent time in same-sex relationships. One panelist spoke to what worked for her. She had difficulty at first as nearly all of her support network was in the gay community. She found that she eventually had to put some distance from some of those friends for a time and develop new friendships and support to make it through the transition. Another panelist spoke of friendships being a matter of mutual respect, and how those that were able to respect his decision remained his friends, while those who were not eventually dropped out of his life.

I will close by saying that one of the reasons this last topic was so meaningful for me is because it has reflected my own journey over the past year. In fact, it was after last year's conference that I ended my relationship with my then boyfriend and re-committed myself to living according to my religious beliefs. It has not been a smooth path back into full activity in the Church. There are a number of things I continued to struggle with, and a number of things of which I had trouble letting go.

But even though the path has not always been smooth, I find peace in knowing I am moving down the path that feels best for me, and that I believe will bring me lasting joy and happiness. I have made numerous friendships over the past year, as well as renewing friendships that I had made in the past. I feel loved and supported in my journey and goals.

Indeed, I got just as much out of the time spent with these friends that were with me at the conference as I did from the topics discussed. I was able to see and talk to and give and receive hugs from so many friends, both old and new. These types of events tend to be reunions of sorts for me, bringing together people both near and far and from a number of different time periods of my life. I really enjoyed the connection and camaraderie I got.

* * * * *

Though I will not be setting a schedule as to when or how often I post on my blog, I suspect that I will write again soon. So watch for new posts in the time to come. Thanks for reading, and as always, feel free to leave comments or feedback.

Monday, July 29, 2013

One Year of Blogging

It has now been one year since I started blogging. One year ago I started this blog to create dialogue and build bridges between different groups of people and communities that quite often don't understand one another and often strongly disagree with one another. During the past year I have written on a variety of topics, some of them rather controversial. I have made it a point to live up to the name of the blog and run against the grain. I have stepped out of the box of what is typically expected for a Mormon, for a bisexual man, and for an SSA man. I have stuck to what I believe, regardless of what others have expected of me.

It's been an interesting year. I initially had a list of topics that I wanted to write about. I was sometimes surprised at how quickly I moved through those topics and would have to find others to write about. Sometimes one came up just in time, and I would write about current events and my perspective on them. At other times I experienced writer's block, and struggled to find something to write about.

At one point I started sharing my personal story and introducing family members in my blog posts. I found this a wonderful opportunity for this normally rather shy and introverted guy to open up and share about himself with others.

At times I felt disappointed at the lack of comments and feedback I received on my blog posts. At times I would think that nobody was reading my blog. But then someone would write to me and mention that they read my blog, or they would mention it in a conversation. Where before I wondered if what I was writing was making any kind of impact, I heard from others what they thought of what I was writing.

For the last year, I have kept to a regular schedule of posting on my blog every other Monday. There have been times I've surprised myself for keeping it going this long without either missing a post or being late. For a man with ADD, keeping this up was quite a challenge, and posting regularly for a year is quite a personal accomplishment.

I have gotten a lot out of writing this blog for the past year. It has caused me to think on a deeper level on a number of controversial topics. And it has helped me with my mission of creating bridges of understanding and acceptance between the LGBT/Queer, SSA and Mormon communities.

It is with mixed feelings that I am announcing that I am putting the regular posting schedule of my blog on hiatus. I have come to realize that I need a break. There have been a number of times recently that writing a post has felt more like a chore than something I was doing because I want to do it. And I want this blog to be something I'm doing because I want to do rather than something I feel I have to do.

This does not mean that I am going to stop posting altogether or that I am going to shut my blog down. I still want to continue the "My Story" series, and there are a couple of other topics I have in mind that I want to write about. What it does mean is that I will not be posting on a regular schedule for the time being.

In closing this post, I want to thank everyone that has been reading this blog, whether this is the first post you have read or whether you've been reading everything I've posted for the last year. I also want to thank everyone that has shared with me their thoughts and feelings about what I've written, whether it was done publicly or privately. Please continue to do so. Knowing the impact I have means a lot to me. I look forward to continue hearing from the readers of this blog that have been a large part of what has kept it going.

Monday, July 15, 2013

My Story -Part 6

When I last left off in the "My Story" series, I had gotten up to the age of ten. In this post, I will cover another few years of my life. If you have not read the previous posts in this series, I have included links at the bottom of this post.

I continued to do well in school for fifth and sixth grades. Both years I had the same teacher for a fifth/sixth grade split class (meaning half the students in the class were in fifth grade, while the other half were in sixth grade). I continued to be shy, and was still slow to make new friends, though with the friends I did have I got along rather well.

By this time the school had converted to a year-round program to accommodate more students without having to build more schools or bring in more portable classrooms. There were four different "tracks," three of which would be in session at any given time. We would typically attend for about nine or so weeks, and then have three weeks off school. When we came back, we'd be in a different classroom. I remember at first how it felt different attending school during the summer, though it was nice to have breaks from school during the middle of the year.

I also continued to be a very avid reader. Our school was involved in a program called Book-It at the time, which rewarded students for reading outside of class. I was so far beyond the other students in the class, that at one point my teacher got permission from my parents to take me to lunch as a reward during an off-track period.

When I started junior high school, I continued to do well overall in school. It was during seventh grade that I stopped taking Ritalin for my ADD. There is some irony in the fact that I stopped taking it mostly due to forgetting to take it. Though because I was still doing well in school, and because some of my symptoms of ADD had dissipated, my doctor and my parents didn't see a strong need to keep me medicated.

The one exception to me doing well in school was P.E. (Physical Education or Gym class). While I maintained As and Bs in all of my other classes, P.E. was the one class where my grades dropped to the C range. It's not that I didn't participate, because I did, but I was not very well coordinated, athletically or otherwise, and had never had a whole lot of interest in sports. These factors came together to affect my grade.

P.E. in junior high school is also when I can first distinctly remember starting to notice my attractions to other boys and men. Though there was almost never any full nudity in the locker room while I was in junior high school, and I can only remember a handful of times that we were required to shower, being in daily situations of seeing other boys shirtless in the locker room, as well as when we'd differentiate teams by "shirts" and "skins," I was definitely getting more exposure to seeing other boys in states of undress. With this added to swimming activities in Boy Scouts, I started to notice that my curiosity about what others' bodies looked like was developing into something more. Over the first couple of years of puberty, this curiosity turned definitively into attraction.

The more I became aware of the attractions, the more I tried to hide and suppress them. I also hoped that this was some sort of phase that would soon pass. Obviously it didn't. I did not think of myself as gay, as that was a rather abstract term for me at the time, and from what I had heard from those around me, was full of lots of negative connotations and stereotypes that didn't fit me. I also didn't think of myself as bisexual at the time; while I did have some interest and attraction to girls, I was not familiar with the term bisexual at the time.

I also noticed early on that I seemed to be alone in my attractions to other boys and men. I remember some sleepovers with my scout troop in a leader's backyard (in which our leader and his family were sleeping inside) or other sleepovers with groups of friends in which we'd get into games of truth or dare. Though nothing overtly sexual happened with these dares, some of them did involve flashing, mooning or stripping. I quickly noticed that I seemed to be the only one that was interested in closely watching in dares that involved nudity, and I remember the embarrassment and shame I felt when others noticed me looking much more intently than others during these dares. I tried to play it off when I got teased about it, but in reality, I was horrified at being found out. The teasing, while fairly mild in nature at this time, reinforced the sense of feeling different and pushed me to further suppress and hide my attractions from others.

During the summer after I finished 7th grade, my scout troop went on a week-long scout camp. It was during this time that I first developed an infatuation or crush on another boy. The camp counselor assigned to our troop was about a year or two older than me. I quickly found myself drawn to him. Though I did see him as physically attractive, it was his personality that drew me in more than anything else. He was outgoing and friendly (and in particular, he was friendly toward me). I just found myself always wanting to be with him or around him. Though I never saw him again after the camp, I definitely thought about him a lot in the weeks after I got home.

When I was in 8th grade, my parents sold their home in Kearns and we moved. As it took them some time to find a house that they liked, my family ended up living with my mom's parents for about seven or eight months. During this time, my youngest brother was born. So for most of that time, we had eleven people living in one house. There was little privacy, and me and my brothers and sisters alternated between the one bedroom set aside for the children and sleeping on couches, sofa-beds, and love sacks.

I was able to deal with the living conditions without much problem. What did become difficult for me was when we started attending church in my grandparents' ward and I started attending school in the neighborhood. As was common for me, I was rather shy, and slow to make friends. That in itself was something I'd learned to accept and deal with about myself.

What was difficult for me was that I wasn't well accepted by the other boys my age in the neighborhood. Several of them I had met before, as they were my grandparents' neighbors' kids. But as far as most of them were concerned, I was just the new kid in the neighborhood and therefore an object of teasing and ridicule. What made it worse for me was that on the surface they acted like they accepted me. It gave me a false sense of acceptance and comfort at first. Afterwards I felt as if I had been lured in, only so they had someone they could tease and make the butt of their jokes. It would have been easier for me if they rejected me outright. Instead, they pretended to be my friends.

There was one boy that I was able to form a tenuous friendship with. When we were hanging out one-on-one, we got along fine. But whenever he was with the group, he reverted back to the group mentality and teased me just as much as the others.

As I'd already learned to hide my attractions, I continued to do so around this group. In fact, one could almost say that I over-compensated. I remember one instance when we were walking home from school in which several of them mooned me, and I responded by covering my eyes and acting disgusted.

But the real lesson I learned from this experience was that not only did I need to hide my attractions, I also needed to hide my feelings, because the teasing wasn't nearly so bad when they couldn't see that they were getting to me.

It was much to my relief when the end of the school year came and my family moved into our new house in Murray. I saw it both as an escape from the incessant teasing that bordered on bullying, and an opportunity to have a new start with new friends.

* * * * *

My Story -Part 1
My Story -Part 2
My Story -Part 3
My Story -Part 4
My Story -Part 5

I am now up to the age of fourteen, and once again feel that I have reached a good stopping point. As always, I appreciate your comments and your feedback.

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Pros and Cons of Pride

Last month, a number of cities around the country and around the world held Pride celebrations. There was one held in Salt Lake City at the beginning of June. I did not attend it this year, though I have attended it the past two years. My experiences at Pride have left me with mixed feelings. There are definitely positive things that I saw about Pride, although there were also negative things. In this post, I will discuss both.

As I mentioned, many Gay Pride festivals, parades and marches took place last month. The reason that so many take place in June is because the first Gay Pride March took place on the anniversary of the police raid on the Stonewall Inn and the ensuing Stonewall Riots that occurred on June 28, 1969. The Stonewall Riots marked the birth of the modern Gay Rights Movement. The first Gay Pride marches took place on June 28, 1970 in New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles. In 1971, seven more cities held marches, and by 1972, the number of cities holding marches had increased to 17, and every major city in the United States had gay rights groups.

Pride does a lot of good for the queer community. It provides an opportunity to gather together. It provides visibility. It brings awareness of discrimination, bigotry and violence that still does take place against LGBT people. And it helps bring in others to support the group. It also provides awareness about the risk for AIDS and other STDs. It provides awareness and support for those at risk for suicide. And it provides countless other resources for those in the queer community.

I would argue, however, that Pride celebrations do just about as much harm as good. I'll illustrate what I personally noticed with the first time I attended a Pride celebration two years ago. I ran in a 5K hosted by the local Pride Center, watched the parade and attended the festival. This was all here in Utah, so my observations may or may not apply to Pride celebrations in other cities.

At the time I was working to balance my sexuality and spirituality, both of which were important to me. At all of the events that I went to, I noticed a general anti-religious tone and a specific anti-Mormon tone. This not only made me feel uncomfortable attending, but also made me feel feel less than completely welcome. Because I was religious and I was Mormon, I did not fit the mold of what someone in the queer community should be (at least according to the opinions I heard). I found some bitter irony that a group that so strongly fights bigotry and discrimination in one area was so willing to take part in it in another area.

The other aspect that flavored my first experience with Pride was the overt display of sexuality. I remember one man in particular in the parade that was wearing so little, that what little was covered left almost nothing to the imagination. And though he was the most extreme example, he was far from the only one. I remember joking with a friend afterward that if I wanted to look at porn, I could have stayed at home. Quite frankly, I did not find either the parade or the festival to be family friendly. There is no way I would consider taking one of my younger nieces or nephews to a Pride event. They do not need that kind of exposure to sexuality.

I think both of these aspects of Pride that I observed do a great disservice to the queer community. Rather than creating understanding for those that struggle the most to see the queer community as anything other than sexual deviants who despise religion, it reinforces those stereotypes. It ignores the opportunity to gain allies and create bridges of understanding, and instead widens the gap of separation, resentment and misunderstanding that already exist.

I am not opposed to Pride celebrations, as I do believe that they do a lot of good. But if they are to be successful in their goals of reducing or eliminating discrimination, bigotry and misunderstanding, some things are going to need to change. Instead of being little short of a gay Mardi Gras, Pride celebrations could take a lesson from the Civil Rights marches of the 1960s that did so much more to create the needed changes in society.

As always, your comments and feedback are welcome and appreciated.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Maintaining a Respectful Dialogue (Even When It's Easier Not To) and My Guest Post on Mormon Geeks

This will be one of my shorter posts. I wrote a guest post on another blog a few days ago (which I will discuss later), and I've found myself with less time than I'd like to write a post for this blog.

Recently, issues around homosexuality have become more prominent in the media again. In New Jersey, a bill banning any type of Sexual Orientation Change Therapy for minors (similar to one that passed in California last year) was recently passed in an assembly panel. Also, as the Supreme Court's current session is near its end, rulings on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California's Prop. 8 could come as soon as today.

Both these issues are controversial and are very polarized. I've already seen comments in social media on both sides of these issues that are anything but respectful to those who disagree with their positions. Personally, I find some irony in the fact that many of those that are in favor of expanding rights in one of theses situation are in favor of limiting rights in the other. And many in both groups feel that those in the other are trying to limit their rights. Considering this, it shouldn't be that difficult to empathize with someone else that also feels that their rights are being limited.

It's really easy to just see the other side as the opposition that needs to be silenced or overcome, and nothing more. It takes more effort to work to understand others with whom we disagree and to see that they may have a legitimate reason for their opinions as well.

But, as I've often found in life, the easy thing to do is rarely the best thing to do.

My hope is that we will maintain a respectful dialogue with those with whom we disagree, even when it's easier not to.

And speaking of "hope", that is the topic of my guest post on Mormon Geeks. Keeping hope is something that has helped me (and continues to help me) through difficult times in my life. So if you want to read a slightly different flavor of my writing, read my guest post and let me know what you think.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Men's Groups and Men's Work

Most of those closest to me know that I have been involved in men's groups and men's work for the past several years. While my involvement in these groups has been extremely helpful and rewarding to me, I have had a difficult time explaining to those not involved in men's work exactly what it is. While in this post, I will touch on what men's work is, I will spend more time sharing about my experience with it and what I get out of it, as I believe that will tell much more about it than simply describing it.

About nine or ten years ago, during the time in which I was attending a support group for SSA men that were committed to living LDS standards, I first started hearing about a couple of different experiential weekends for men. The first was called Journey into Manhood and was specifically for SSA men that wanted to find growth, change and healing as an alternative to living homosexual lifestyles or being in homosexual relationships. The second was called the New Warrior Training Adventure and was for any man that wished to attend, and focused on emotional authenticity, personal responsibility, living lives of purpose and mission, and having a supportive community.

I had a number of men in my life that invited me to go to Journey into Manhood (JiM), though I declined for several years, mostly due to the cost. I also remember questioning how much one weekend could accomplish. Finally, after several years, and hearing from literally dozens of friends that had overwhelmingly positive experiences attending JiM, in 2007, I finally decided to go. And it was a wonderful experience for me, giving me the opportunity to truly feel and express my emotions, let go of a lot of the shame I'd been carrying and make a lot of positive connections and develop new friendships, some of which have lasted through today.

After going through JiM, I attended a follow-up therapy group that built on the principles and experiences of the JiM experience. I attended for a few months before I started attending an Integration Group (I Group), which is a follow-up group for the New Warrior Training Adventure (NWTA). With some encouragement from some of the staff and participants of my JiM weekend, as well as the men in my I Group, I signed up for an NWTA in Colorado, and attended it with a couple of friends from the Utah JiM community.

This was also a powerful experience for me, also filled with personal awareness, connection and friendship. And since that time I have regularly attended men's groups, be it an I Group or a MANS Group (a follow-up group for JiM) or sometimes both. Since going through these weekends, I have gone on to staff a JiM weekend, as well as several NWTAs. I've found that I get just as much out of staffing the weekends as I did going through them as a participant.

I also very recently went through JiM for a second time. After all of my life experiences over the last two or three years, it felt like a good time to re-connect with what I learned the first time I went through it. And I found that though going through JiM a second time was a very different experience than the first time, it was just as powerful an experience as the first time I went through.

It was, in fact, an I Group that helped give me the vision that inspired me to start this blog. One of the I Groups that I attended over the years had men that were SSA, men that were gay, men that were straight, men that were LDS, and men of no religious background in it. And we were all able to accept each other as we were without trying to change each other. As I saw this within that group, I began to see the possibility of this happening on a larger scale.

Being in an I Group also gave me needed support during the period of time I was questioning my choices around my religion and my sexuality. It gave me a place I could go and be authentic about what I was going through, while still receiving love, acceptance and support.

I have attended and continue to attend men's groups and do men's work because I see that it helps me better myself. The men I have met in men's groups and by doing men's work have become some of my closest friends and brothers. They support me as they are able to show me my blind spots, both good and bad, and helping me to keep them where I can see them. When I don't see them, I miss out on seeing many of the positive qualities about myself, and the negative qualities that I don't see start controlling my behavior. It's a place I can go and be authentic and open about all of me, both good and bad, and still be loved, accepted and supported, which goes a long way in moving past the shame that has held me down for many years. And I also get close connection, friendship and brotherhood with other men, which is something I've needed, but has been lacking earlier in my life.

In more intellectual terms, much of what I experience in men's work can be described as a mix of the use of Jungian archetypes, psycho-drama, cathartic release, and unconditional positive regard. And I believe that describing what I get out of it speaks a lot more about men's work than describing exactly what we do in the groups and on experiential weekends.

And that, in a nutshell is my experience with men's groups and men's work. As always, comments and questions are welcome.

Monday, May 20, 2013

My Story -Part 5

When I left off with "My Story" in my last blog post, I had gotten up to the age of six years old. In this post, I will cover a few more years of my childhood. If you have not read the previous entries in the "My Story" series, I have included links to them at the bottom of this post.

As I mentioned in my last post, I became an avid reader at a very young age. I enjoyed fiction the most (and I would read fiction in a variety of subjects), though I was also known to take an interest in reading from the encyclopedia and other types of non-fiction. Usually, once I picked up a book, I didn't want to put it down.

I can recall experiences from my childhood that I was more interested in reading than in playing with friends. If I was involved in a book when a friend came by, I'd more often than not want to continue what I was reading rather than  play with my friend.

I did well enough in school in Kindergarten and first grade, though I definitely had an active imagination. And it was very easy for me to get lost in my imagination when I was supposed to be focused on something else. My first grade teacher once had a conversation with my mom about that, and she also spoke of at times seeing me just stare at my pencil for periods of time, probably trying to figure out how the lead was put in there.

Once I entered second grade, being able to focus on school work started to become more of a problem, as I would still find it very easy to get lost in my imagination when I was supposed to be focused on something else. When it came to assignments involving reading, including a class competition for reading, I did very well (in fact, I spent more time reading at home than all but one other person in the class). Though when it came to other assignments, I would get distracted rather easily. I remember charts kept in class tracking our progress in completing various types of assignments, and I was almost always behind nearly everyone else in the class.

Shortly after finishing second grade, I was diagnosed by my pediatrician as having Attention Deficit Disorder. Shortly after starting third grade, I started taking a low dose of Ritalin. This was long before extended release versions were available, and I remember having to stop by the office at lunch every day to take my second dose of the day.

The difference in my ability to focus from before I started taking medication was like night and day. I was now able to focus on my school work and much more easily complete assignments. When I was in third grade, my school separated students into different classes for math and English based on what level they were at. I met with my former 2nd grade teacher for English, and she noticed the difference firsthand.

I continued to do well in fourth grade, remaining near the top of my grade level in reading, and at average or slightly above in most other subjects. I also continued to do well as far as citizenship grades went. I was definitely an introvert during my childhood, and it was almost unheard of for me to be disciplined in school for any behavior problems.

Though Jaron and Evan (mentioned in my previous post) remained my closest friends throughout my childhood, I do recall making other friends during my early years in school. There was Dylan that lived down the street that I was close to for a couple of years, until his family moved away. There was Derek that I met in school, and formed a friendship with due to some of our common interests. And there was Don that lived a few streets away that I was also close friends with for a period of time. Throughout most of my childhood, I was also close to my cousin Lance, who was only a month older than me.

I also had several female friends, one of which lived in the neighborhood for a few years. She was the same age as me, and we were also in the same grade in school. At about the age of seven, it was from this girl that I received my first real introduction to the differences between boys and girls. As this is the only experience of this type in my childhood that had involved any kind of touch, it is something that has stuck with me through the years.

We did not go on too many trips or vacations when I was younger (other than an occasional overnight camping trip, or sometimes staying overnight with my uncle and his family in Wyoming that lived about two hours away), so the few trips that we did take stick out to me.

My first big vacation that I can remember was when I was nine. My grandparents took me, my brother Matt, and my cousin Lance on a road trip. We first stopped in Reno, where we stayed at Circus Circus (which as kids, we thoroughly enjoyed), and then went on to the Bay Area where we stayed for several days with my aunt and uncle. While we were there we visited San Francisco, some some other sites in the Bay Area, and (for us three boys) had our first experience playing on the beach.

The only other vacation I went on during my childhood was about a year later when I was ten. My dad (who at the time did contract work as a drywaller) was offered a job in southern California, and so my parents made it into a vacation for us. We first drove down and stayed in Boulder, NV, where we got to tour the Hoover Dam. After staying there for a day or two, we then drove down to the L.A. area where we went to Disneyland, Knott's Berry Farm, Univeral Studios, as well as another trip to the beach.

One other event of importance during this time of my life was my baptism. About two weeks after my eighth birthday, I was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Though I had attended church with my parents before this, and continued to do so afterward, this has remained an important milestone in my life.

* * * * *

My Story -Part 1
My Story -Part 2
My Story -Part 3
My Story -Part 4

I am now up to about the age of ten, and once again, this feels like a good stopping point. Stay tuned for future blog posts in which I will continue my story.

As always, feel free to leave comments or ask questions, whether here on the blog, or by sending me a private message.

Monday, May 6, 2013

My Story -Part 4

It's been a couple of months since my last installment of the "My Story" series. Most of the series so far has consisted of introductions to members of my family. This post will resume the sharing of my story. If you have not yet read the previous installments of "My Story," I have included links to them at the end of this post.

As I mentioned earlier in this series, my earliest memories begin around the time I was two years old, which also coincides with the birth of my brother Matt.

My dad has told the story of the day my brother was born. While my mom was in the hospital, and he was at home with me, I made a mess by dumping a ten pound container of sugar all over the kitchen floor. I actually remember this, though it wasn't until much later in life that I made the connection that this was the same day that my brother was born.

Being so close in age, Matt and I were pretty close growing up. We often shared a bedroom and we did a lot of stuff together. And as is often the case with little brothers, he was also good at annoying me (though just as often unintentionally as not), most often wanting to do things with me that I either wanted to do by myself or with my own friends. Though we had many of the same problems that most brothers do, overall we did get along pretty well.

My best friends during my childhood were also my closest neighbors. There was Jaron, who lived across the street from me and was born eight days after me. And there was Evan, who lived next door, and was about six months younger than me. I saw more of Jaron as we were in the same grade in school, though as we got older, our interests diverged. Evan and I tended to have more common interests growing up, and so we would often play together when we were younger, though we were a grade apart in school.

I was very sensitive as a child. I both have been told this by my parents and I have memories of it as well. It would take very little to get me upset over something, usually resulting in me crying. When this happened in public, there were times I got teased or laughed at. I believe that this played a role in shaping my interactions with others when I got older. To avoid negative reactions from others, I often remained quiet, withdrawn and closed off, as a defense against letting others get close enough to me emotionally to hurt me. I would often open up more as I got to know someone better, but early on, I would usually be very shy and introverted.

As I mentioned before, when I was younger my mom taught pre-school in our home. I attended it for two years before I started kindergarten. Being the teacher's son, I think I often got away with more than I should have. I recall at times claiming I felt "tired" as an excuse to go to my room and play.

I also recall experiencing separation anxiety from my mom when I first started kindergarten. I'm sure I wasn't the only five-year-old to experience this, but I can recall not wanting my mom to leave me with strangers I didn't know. Though I was able to adapt pretty quickly, it has left me with a clear memory of my first day of kindergarten. This is one of the first memories I have of the social anxiety that has endured with me into adulthood.

I was also a quick learner. I learned to read rather quickly (having a mother that was also a teacher, and had materials for young children definitely helped). I believe that it was during my first couple of years of elementary school that I developed the love of reading and learning.

* * * * *
My Story -Part 1
My Story -Part 2
My Story -Part 3

Though I have only gotten up to about age six, due to time and space constraints, this seems to be a good place to stop. I plan on continuing with another segment of this series in my next blog post in two weeks.

As always, feel free to leave comments or to ask questions, whether directly on my blog, on the Facebook link, or by sending me a private message.

Monday, April 22, 2013

One Year Later

Ten days ago marked the passing of one year since a significant event in my life. On April 12, 2012, I published a letter to my profile wall on Facebook in which I came out publicly about my sexual orientation. I shared in a blog post last summer about my reasons for coming out, as well as the response I got after doing so.

Now that a year has passed since I went public about my sexuality, I want to share what my life is like now.

When I initially came out a year ago, I was deliberately vague about the choices I was making around my sexuality. First, that was not the reason I was opening up about my sexuality. Second, at the time I didn't want to post something divisive, as I have a large group of friends that have varied opinions on what the most appropriate way is to respond to one's sexual orientation. And third, I was trying to minimize possible personal rejection.

In response to the first reason, enough time has passed that my reasons for being open about my sexuality should no longer be confused with my choices around my sexuality. Second, since starting this blog, I have posted about several different topics that tend to be controversial and divisive, and the dialogue to these posts has remained respectful. Third, while coming out about my sexuality a year ago was a big step in authenticity for me, I've found that I've continued to let fear hold me back from being fully authentic about my life choices regarding my sexuality. I've long known that the best way to overcome fear is to step into it. And that is what I am doing with this post.

At the time I came out, I was trying to maintain a balance between my sexuality and my spirituality/religious beliefs. I viewed both as being a part of who I am. I had been exploring my attractions to men in ways that I had never really allowed myself to in the past. While at the same time, I was still occasionally attending church, and maintaining a link to my Mormon beliefs that were also part of who I was.

I had some well-meaning friends that encouraged me to leave my LDS faith behind. To that I responded that I could no more cut off the part of me that was LDS than I could cut off my arm. It's true that technically I could do it, but it would leave me mutilated and incomplete. It would be cutting off part of who I was, and I wasn't willing to do it.

For the past year, I'd been maintaining this balance. On the one side, I was dating men and exploring the possibility of a relationship with a man. On the other side, I was attending church, and keeping my connection to my LDS faith. The balance was working at the time, though I was under no illusion that it was a permanent solution.

From time to time, I'd experience what is known in psychology terms as cognitive dissonance. My actions were not matching my beliefs and I felt conflicted. The one thing that did keep me going was my belief in a God that was a loving father that loved me regardless of my actions. I never felt certain that He approved of all of my choices, but I was certain that He loved me.

At the time that I came out, I was dating another man. I had discussed with him early on where I was at, and he let me know that he supported me finding what worked best for me, even if that didn't involve a relationship with him. I appreciated the freedom to explore what worked best for me.

During this same time period, I started meeting with a counselor that a couple of different friends had recommended to me to work through the internal conflict that I had been experiencing. She had no agenda as far as which path was best for me to take. She only wanted to help me find what was best for me.

After meeting with her for a few months, I finally did come to a place of clarity, and decided what path was best for me. We had explored the possibilities for me of going down several different paths. The one that brought me the most peace and held the least amount of conflict and anxiety was living according to my LDS beliefs.

Shortly after, I spoke with the man I had been dating, and shared with him what I had discovered, and told him of my decision to return to full activity in the LDS Church. As he told me he would before, he supported my decision. I also shared with several other close friends, and soon opened up to the bishop of the ward I lived in, and began working with him to progress towards my goals of being fully active and in good standing in the Church.

The path I have chosen has not always been smooth, and there have been times that that I have questioned whether it was what I really wanted. But I have always felt guided back to it, and I believe that it is the path that is best for me and will bring me the most peace.

I have a lot of friends that are also sexual minorities. There is great variety in how each has chosen to respond to their sexuality. I respect the right of each of them to decide what is the best and most authentic way to live their lives, and I offer each of them my support as they do so. I am grateful for the friends and family that showed me this same love and support during my journey as I found my path.

When I came out a year ago, bisexual was the term that felt best for me. I am still comfortable using it even though I am now celibate and will likely remain so for some time. But I am also comfortable using the term SSA. Which term I use will often depend on who I'm with, how much understanding they have of the terminology, and how much time I have to explain.

When I first started this blog last summer, it was shortly after I made this self-discovery and decision, and as such I felt on the fringes of both the LGBT and SSA communities. I have since come to see that there is a place for me to find acceptance in each, even though I don't often find myself of the mainstream opinion in either group. But I am willing to continue going against the grain in either group if it feels it is the right thing to do.

Just as I did not know what the response would be when I came out a year ago, I do not know what the response will be to my decision to be more authentic about my life. Some people know all about my journey these last few years. Up until now, there will have been some that never knew that I left the path I was once on, as well as others that did not know that I have chosen to return to it.

My reason for posting this is not to change anyone's mind about what is the best way to address their sexuality, as I believe that everyone has to find out and decide for themselves what path is best. My only hope is that I will continue to receive the love and support that I got when I did come out.

As I said a year ago, I am still the same person that you have always known, only now more open and authentic about who I am, as well as how I have chosen to live my life.

As before, I welcome comments and questions, provided they maintain a respectful dialogue.

Also as before, I do not know exactly what life has in store for me, though I do look forward to finding out.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Being Civil When Discussing Civil Marriage (and Other Topics)

This post is going to be shorter than most. I'm preparing to move in less than a week, and don't have as much time as I'd like to write this post. But though this post will be short, I am once again addressing a controversial topic.

On March 27th of this year, the United States Supreme began hearing oral arguments on an appeal for a ruling that found parts of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional. DOMA is a federal law that was enacted in 1996 that recognizes marriage as a union of a man and a woman (and limits all federal marriage benefits to opposite sex couples) and prohibits required inter-state recognition of same-sex marriage in the United States.

As the time for these oral hearing approached, both the news media and social media exploded with opinions for and against the striking down of DOMA and the legalization of same-sex marriage. I have read opinions on both sides that are passionate, and accuse those that disagree with them of being hateful and trying to force their agenda on everyone.

Back in 2008, when Prop. 8 was on the ballot in California, despite living two states away, I felt very much caught in the middle of the debate. There were extreme opinions on both sides. Those with extreme opinions in favor of Prop. 8 looked on every sexual minority as deviants, sinners, perverts, etc. that were trying to force their skewed view of morality on everyone. Those that were opposed to Prop. 8 looked on Mormons, religious conservatives, and other supporters as being hateful, bigoted, closed-minded, and trying to force their religion and morality on everyone. As an SSA/bisexual Mormon, I felt attacked and persecuted by those on both sides of the issue, and most before they knew my opinion on the matter.

In fact, I remember at one point telling someone that was sharing her opinion on Prop. 8 that I could see both sides of the issue. Her response to me showed that as far as she was concerned, there wasn't another side that was even worth being considered. As far as she was concerned, those that disagreed with her were just being hateful, pushy and trying to force their opinions on others, and nothing more.

A week and a half ago, it felt like everything that I had experienced during Prop. 8 was being brought up again. If I didn't support same-sex marriage, then I was a hateful bigot with toxic opinions. If I didn't stand against same-sex marriage, then I had no values and was aiding in the flood of immorality on society. As far as some were concerned, there was no middle ground.

Most of these passionate opinions were expressed in the social media, such as Facebook. Some of these opinions were expressed in the break room at my work. After listening to one such opinion shared, I remember sending a text to a few friends that day expressing my frustration and that I might have to start taking my breaks somewhere else.

There was, however, one conversation I had that I was heartened by. I was speaking with one of my coworkers (who is also a friend of mine), and even though we had somewhat different views, we were able to express our views in a civil and respectful manner. On some issues, we acknowledged that we disagreed and that we didn't have to agree with each other to be civil and to be friends.

Over the coming months, the Supreme Court will rule on the constitutionality of DOMA and Prop. 8. As that happens, there will be those that will agree with the rulings, and those that will disagree. Some will feel very passionate with how they feel. As this happens, my hope is that we may all be civil and respectful of others, especially those with whom we disagree.

* * * * *

In four days, it will be one year to the day since I came out publicly about my sexual orientation. Come back in two weeks as I discuss what my life is like one year later.

Monday, March 25, 2013

"Mixed Orientation" Relationships

There are a number of controversial topics related to homosexuality, some of which I have addressed in previous posts, such as change and misconceptions on bisexuality. As the title of this post shows, today's post will address another controversial topic, mixed orientation relationships.

I first came across the terms mixed orientation marriage and mixed orientation relationship about five or six years ago. Just reading the terms at the time, I didn't completely understand what they meant (even though I know many people that these terms described). Though many in mixed orientation relationships do not use and some even dislike the term, as I have yet to come across a better term, for the purposes of this blog post, it is the term I will use.

In this post, I will largely refrain from using terms to describe identity, such as gay, lesbian, SSA or straight, as those in mixed orientation relationships may use a variety of sexual identities or none at all. Instead, I will primarally use terms that describe sexual orientation. This may make this post more wordy than seems necessary, though since my series on terminology, I have a desire to "practice what I preach," and use the correct terms. If there in any confusion or lack of clarity about the terminology I am using, please read my series on Terminology:
Terminology -Part 1
Terminology -Part 2
Terminology -Part 3

Quite simply, a mixed orientation relationship is defined as a romantic or sexual relationship between people of different sexual orientations, and a mixed orientation marriage is a marriage of people of different sexual orientations. It is most often used to refer to a couple consisting of one person that has a heterosexual orientation and another that has a homosexual orientation. Though it can refer to any relationship in which the individuals do not have the same sexual orientation.

Individuals that enter into such relationships and marriages may do so for a variety of reasons. In some cases the heterosexual partner is aware of the other's orientation, while in other cases, he or she is not (or at least is not at the start of the relationship or marriage).

In the last few years, many have become much more aware of mixed orientation relationships. Most of the media attention on such relationships has been negative, and as such, these types of relationships have become very controversial, with a number of people universally condemning them.

The stereotypical mixed orientation marriage that is often portrayed in the media is that of a man with a homosexual orientation marrying a woman of a heterosexual orientation without her knowledge of his orientation. The man's motives for marrying are often portrayed as being to either hide or try to change his orientation. These marriages are usually portrayed as ending in divorce as the man will invariably cheat on his wife with another man or men, or if not, be unable to live with hiding his sexuality, and the marriage will end in divorce, creating a broken family.

But that is only the stereotype that is dominant. While it is true for a number of mixed orientation marriages, it is far from being universally true. Not every mixed orientation marriage begins with one spouse hiding their orientation from the other. Not every partner that is homosexual enters the relationship to try to hide or change their orientation. And not every mixed orientation marriage results in adultery, betrayal, divorce, and a broken family.

Though no research has been reported that I'm aware of, just my personal experience with those I know in mixed orientation marriages has shown that their relationships can be just as happy and successful as those in same orientation marriages. Some do claim that mixed orientation marriages are more likely to fail. That may or may not be true. Until there is scientific research reported, however, that is just individual observation or opinion.

It is true that there are many mixed orientation marriages that fail. It is also true, however, that there are many same orientation marriages that fail. And just as there are also many same orientation marriages that are successful, the same is true of mixed orientation marriages.

This is not to say that I universally support mixed orientation marriages, as I do not. I see the decision to enter into a mixed orientation relationship or marriage as being very personal. And I do not support mixed orientation marriages unless there is full disclosure between the spouses about sexual orientation and sexual history before the wedding. Though I do know of marriages that have survived in which a spouse hid their sexual orientation at first, it is still dishonest, does not give the other spouse an opportunity to make an informed decision, and it places an obstacle that may be very difficult to overcome in the marriage.

Another factor that I see as important is for anyone that is exclusively homosexual (or anyone considering a relationship with someone that is) is putting plenty of thought (and prayer, if appropriate) into such a relationship before deciding to enter into one. Mixed orientation relationships often have challenges that same orientation relationships do not have, although that does not necessarily make them insurmountable.

So, although I do not universally support mixed orientation marriages, I do support them when there is honesty (both with oneself and one's potential spouse), certainty about one's true motives and intentions, and when it is an informed decision. Even of those that are exclusively homosexual that do not want to enter a same sex relationship (whether for personal or religious reasons), not all will feel that a mixed orientation relationship is right for them, nor should they be pressured or coerced into entering one. And on the other side of the coin, any person that is heterosexual also has the right to decide whether being in a relationship or marriage with someone who has an exclusively homosexual orientation is right for them or something they are willing and ready to do.

I also support mixed orientation relationships because of another possible aspect of them. I stated earlier that mixed orientation relationships are most often used to refer to a couple with one individual of a heterosexual orientation and another of a homosexual orientation. But a mixed orientation relationship also refers to couples in which one individual has a bisexual orientation and the other has either a heterosexual or a homosexual orientation.

For example, I am bisexual. And if I were to enter a relationship with anyone, man or woman, unless they were also bisexual, it would be a mixed orientation relationship, since my orientation would be different than that of the man or woman I was in a relationship with.

One of the criticisms of mixed orientation relationships is that it is not fair to an individual to be in a relationship with someone that does not fully love them, most often referring to a man of a homosexual orientation being in a relationship with a woman of a heterosexual orientation. But cases in which one individual is bisexual show the flaw in this argument. If I should not be in a relationship with a woman because I supposedly cannot fully love her because I am attracted to men, then how would it be any more right for me to be in a relationship with a man, since following the same logic, I would not be able to fully love him because I am attracted to women? Unless those that are bisexual are supposed to just remain single, it does not make sense to universally condemn mixed orientation relationships for this reason.

As I stated earlier, I do know a number of couples in mixed orientation relationships, many of whom I consider friends. Many of them live private lives, and I have no desire to put them in the public eye without their permission. But I will reference two such friends that are public about their relationships, and provide a link to others.

The first couple is Ty and Danielle Mansfield. Ty has been in the public eye about his sexuality for close to ten years (and I've also known him almost that long), through both public speaking and books he has published. Ty is also a co-founder and currently a vice president for North Star International. Their story was told on LDS Living last year, and can also be found on the Mormons and Gays website.

The second couple is Josh and Lolly Weed. They went public in a post on Josh's blog last year, which went viral, and Josh has written and spoken on the topic at a number of firesides, conferences and conventions since that time. I've had the privilege of meeting Josh and Lolly several times that they've been in Utah to speak.

Both the Mansfields and the Weeds have participated in the Voices of Hope project, which has a website scheduled to launch this month. Ty and the Weeds both have videos in the preview, and many more individuals and couples in mixed orientation marriages will be featured on the website once it launches and more videos are recorded, edited and posted.

In closing, I do want to acknowledge that my opinion on mixed orientation relationships is a lot stronger than my opinion on many of the other things I have written about. This is in part that nearly any relationship I hope to be in (or have ever hoped to be in) would be a mixed orientation relationship. In stating my opinion, I do welcome more dialogue on the topic, particularly with those of differing opinions.

As always, feel free to continue the dialogue by commenting on this post.

Monday, March 11, 2013

My Story -Part 3

In my last post and in the most recent installment of the "My Story" series, I introduced you to some more of my family (if you have not yet read the previous posts, links are included at the end of this post). I this post, I will introduce you to the younger of my brothers and sisters: Megan, Zach and Brady.

Megan was born about two and a half years after Josh, and about eight and a half years after me.

As Megan was only the second girl in the family, she was a welcome addition, particularly by her mother and her older sister. Growing up Megan was probably closer to Heather than any of her other siblings, often sharing a bedroom with her, though they also occasionally clashed as well.

As with most of the children in the family, Megan grew up being artistically inclined. Though her focus tends to be on visual arts, like most of the others in the family, she also took an interest in poetry and other types of writing while she was in junior high and high school.

After graduating from high school, Megan started attending Salt Lake Community College. She has changed degrees several times, and is currently majoring in graphic art, though she also has an interest in web design. She has, for the most part, put herself through school without the aid of loans, going to college part time, while also working part time at a trailer supply store (where she works with Matt).

Zach was born two years after Megan and about ten and a half years after me.

During his early childhood, Zach was closest to Matt, and as such tended to share a lot of the same interests as him. Zach was also rather prone to injuries when he was younger (from dog bites to being hit by falling icicles) and he has the scars to prove it.

Zach graduated from high school and later than year received a mission call to the Kentucky Louisville Mission. However, several weeks before he was to leave, he saw a doctor about numbness he was feeling in his lower back and the bottoms of his feet, and was found to have a tumor growing along his spine.

Fortunately the tumor was benign, though its growth was causing nerve damage. His mission was delayed as he had surgery to remove the tumor. The surgery was largely successful, though the surgeon was not able to remove all of it, as the risk for spinal damage was too great.

Zach had regular follow-up MRIs after the surgery, and made a slow recovery, having to learn to walk a bit differently due to the nerve damage. He was eventually cleared to serve a trial mission in the Utah Ogden Mission (to ensure that he was physically up to the rigors of serving a mission), and later went on to the MTC and then to serve permanently in Kentucky where he was originally called.

He unfortunately had to return home early when an MRI while he was in Kentucky showed that the remnant of the tumor had grown sufficiently to necessitate surgery to remove it. He later had yet another surgery when another tumor was found, and later had radiation treatment to rid his spinal column of several much smaller tumors that were later found.

Though his recovery hasn't been 100%, it has been sufficient to generally function normally in life. In the past year, he started attending Salt Lake Community College (though he hasn't decided on a major yet), and he recently got a job working at a pizza parlor.

Brady was born three years after Zach, making him thirteen and a half years younger than me.

Of all my siblings, I would say that Brady is probably the most like me in personality. Growing up he was very sensitive, though also intellectual, and pretty shy around those he didn't know (all traits that I share with him). Along with Zach, Brady and I also share similar interests in gaming.

In his later teen years, Brady became a full fledged brony (for those that aren't familiar with this term, it's an amalgamation of brother and pony, and is used by teenage boys and young adults that are fans of the current "My Little Pony" cartoon series).

Brady graduated high school, and then attend a semester at the College of Eastern Utah in Price (breaking the family trend of attending the U or SLCC) on a scholarship. He then received his mission call to the Florida Jacksonville Mission, and has now been there for about nine or ten months, and is currently serving as a district leader.

* * * * *
My Story -Part 1
My Story -Part 2

Hopefully these introductions have helped you get to know my family better. My family is a very important part of my life and I believe that getting to know them will help get to know me better. In the next installment of "My Story" I will resume the actual story of my own life.

Monday, February 25, 2013

My Story -Part 2

A couple of months ago, I shared the first part of my story (If you have not yet read it, a link is included at the end of this post). I started with introducing my parents. As I've thought about writing the next part of my story, I realize that my story will likely make more sense if I introduce my family members before I start writing about them.

So in this post, I will begin introducing my brothers and sisters. As I am from a family of seven children, I will split their introductions into two separate posts. From oldest to youngest, my siblings are Matthew (Matt), Heather, Joshua (Josh), Megan, Zachary (Zach), and Brady. In this post, I will introduce you to Matt, Heather and Josh.

I ended my last "My Story" post with the birth of my brother Matt. Matt was born about two years and three months after me. The two words I would use to best describe Matt during his childhood would be curious and adventurous. His first complete sentence was, "Get down!" as that was one of the most common ones he heard from our parents when he was a toddler. He could be frequently found climbing somewhere.

Even as he got older he kept his sense of adventure. I remember once when he was about seven or eight years old in a game of tag or hide and seek, he had climbed a tree, and then in order to avoid getting caught, while about fifteen or twenty feet above the ground, he jumped to another tree.

He was also curious about how things worked, and as a child could often be found taking something apart and putting it back together (sometimes more successfully than others).

Because we were so close in age, Matt and I played together a lot growing up and often played with the same friends. We also frequently shared a bedroom.

Matt graduated from high school while I was serving my mission, and a couple of months after I returned home, he received his call to the California Roseville Mission.

Matt has attended school off and on since that time at Salt Lake Community College, pursuing a degree in auto mechanics. In 2006, he met Launa through his friendship with her roommates, and soon after began dating her. Around Easter of the next year, Matt and Launa were engaged and they then married in June of 2007 in the Salt Lake Temple. In 2010 they bought and moved in to their house, and in October of 2011, Launa gave birth to their daughter, Kylie. Matt is currently working as a manager at a trailer supply store.

Heather was born about two years after Matt, making her four years younger than me. Heather had an interesting early childhood, including becoming infected with giardia  as an infant, and getting third degree burns on her arms when she was a toddler from falling against a hot wood burning stove. She fortunately made a full recovery from both.

Heather was born with dark curly hair, which turned blond as she got older. Her closest childhood friends were the twin girls who lived next door and were a year older than her. Both of them had straight long hair, and much of her childhood she wanted to have hair like theirs, and would often use things like a grass skirt or pom poms to make her hair "longer".

Of all the children in the family, she probably had the hardest time when we moved due to her close friendships. However, she was able to adapt and make new friends.

She graduated from high school about a year after I returned home from my mission, and for a year, she and I attended Salt Lake Community College together, often riding together and even taking an institute class together.

In 2004, she met Clay who had been working with Matt, and was also attending the same singles ward. In late spring or early summer of the next year they were engaged, and they were married in our grandparents' back yard in September of 2005.

In August of 2006, their first son, Robby, was born. And in March of 2007 they were sealed in the Manti Temple. During most of their marriage they have lived in the Salt Lake Valley, though they spent most of a year living in Washington State. They returned to Salt Lake several months before the birth of their first daughter, Aili, who was born in March of 2011. And in August of 2012, they celebrated the birth of their second son, Kelly. Heather is currently a stay-at-home mom, who keeps busy raising her three young children.

Josh was born about two years after Heather, making him six years younger than me. During his infancy, and childhood, Josh had a different build than me and my other siblings. We were all very slim, while he was more on the chubby side. Though once he hit puberty, Josh lost his baby fat, and developed a very similar build as me and Matt, enough so that I almost confused Josh for Matt when I first saw him at the airport upon returning from my mission.

Josh was very easy-going as a toddler and child, and as such earned the nickname, Buddy, when he was younger. When asked his name, he'd even recite that he was "Josh Jacob JJ Buddy Coon." During his younger childhood, he could almost always be found playing with a ball of some sort.

He also had much more of an interest in sports as a child than I did, or even Matt. I remember at one point when asked, he said he wanted to be a football player when he grew up. Josh was involved with several baseball teams while growing up, as well as a junior track program. However, he lost much of his interest in sports by the time he started high school.

Josh is likely the most intellectually inclined of my siblings. He did very well in high school, completing several AP and concurrent enrollment classes before he graduated. He was able to get a scholarship to the University of Utah, and completed a year there before receiving his mission call to the Brazil Campinas Mission.

Upon completing his mission, he continued his education at the U, graduating in 2012, with dual bachelor degrees in chemical engineering and international studies. In 2008, he met Jen who at the time had been dating his roommate. But Jen and Josh soon developed an interest in each other and began dating. In fall of that year, Jen and Josh were engaged, and in January of 2009 they were married in the Salt Lake Temple.

In October of 2011, Jen gave birth to their first daughter, Evie. Two years later, in November of 2012, she gave birth to their second daughter, Jolene. They currently live in the Ogden area, and Josh works as a chemical engineer in Morgan.

Josh is the one of my siblings I probably feel the closest to in adulthood. When I first told him about my sexuality, he seemed to understand it better, and he's also been someone I've found it easy to talk to and count on to show love and support, even if he doesn't necessarily completely agree with all the choices I made in approaching my sexuality.

* * * * *

My Story -Part 1

In my next installment of this "My Story" series, I will introduce you to the rest of my siblings. This will probably be in two weeks, though I haven't completely decided yet. But whether I continue my story or post on something different, check back here in two weeks for my next blog post.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Terminology -Part 3

Welcome back.

This blog will be the second half of my list of some of the terms most commonly used around sexuality, and the third in my "Terminology" series. For the list of the first half of my list of terms, please read my previous blog post.

Polysexual- (used to define orientation, identity, attraction and behavior)  the sexual orientation of those attracted to multipe sexes; a sexual identity used by those attracted to multiple sexes; attraction to multiple sexes; can be used as an adjective to describe sexual behavior of an individual with others of multiple sexes; those of a polysexual orientation may also be bisexual or pansexual.

Queer- (used to define identity) historically used as a derogatory term or slur for sexual minorities; more recently, queer is becoming accepted as a positive umbrella term for sexual minorites; often used interchangeably with LGBT.

Straight- (used to define identity and behavior) a sexual identity used by those attracted to the opposite sex; also used as an adjective to describe sexual activity between individuals of the opposite sex; not all individuals that are attracted to the opposite sex identify as straight (some identify as bisexual or do not take on a sexual identity); the term straight is frequently used to describe a sexual orientation, though the correct term for the orientation is heterosexual.

Same Gender Attracted- (used to define identity and attraction) an identity used by those attracted to the same gender, usually as an alternative to the identities gay, lesbian or bisexual (though not all those attracted to the same gender identify as same gender attracted); used as an adjective to describe those attracted to the same gender (regardless of whether the individual identifies as such); often shortened to the acronym SGA; often used interchangeably with the term same sex attracted, though the term technically is different as gender is a social construct that may or may not match an individual's biological sex.

Same Gender Attraction- (used to define attraction) attraction to the same gender (for example, the attraction of those that are male to those that are male, and those that are female to those that are female); often shortened to the acronym SGA; often used interchangeably with the term same sex attraction, although the term technically is different as gender is a social construct that may or may not match an individual's biological sex.

Same Sex Attracted- (used to define identity and attraction) an identity used by those attracted to the same sex, usually as an alternative to the identities gay, lesbian or bisexual (though not all those attracted to the same sex identify as same sex attracted); used as an adjective to describe those attracted to the same sex (regardless of whether the individual identifies as such); often shortened to the acronym SSA; often used interchangeably with the term same gender attracted, though the term technically is different as gender is a social construct that may or may not match an individual's biological sex.

Same Sex Attraction- (used to define attraction) attraction to the same sex (for example, the attraction of those that are male to those that are male, and those that are female to those that are female); often shortened to the acronym SSA; often used interchangeably with the term same gender attraction, although the term technically is different as gender is a social construct that may or may not match an individual's biological sex.

Sexual Minority- (used to define orientation, identity and behavior) used as a grouping of sexual orientations, identities or behaviors that differ from those of the majority of surrounding society (typically any orientation, identity or behavior that is not heterosexual or straight); used as an umbrella term to include all individuals whose sexual orientation, identity, or behavior is different than that of the majority of society.

SGA- (used to define identity and attraction) an acronym for same gender attraction or same gender attracted; often used interchangeably with the acronym SSA, though they are technically different as gender is a social construct that may or may not match an individual's biological sex.

SSA- (used to define identity and attraction) an acronym for same sex attraction or same sex attracted; often used interchangeably with the acronym SGA, though they are technically different as gender is a social construct that may or may not match an individual's biological sex.

Transgender- (used to define identity) the identity of individuals who do not identify with the gender of their biological sex; may also be used as an adjective to describe such individuals regardless of whether they identify as such; often used interchangeably with the term transsexual, though there are differences, and individuals may prefer one term over the other.

Transsexual- (used to define identity) the identity of individuals who do not identify with the gender of their biological sex; may also be used as an adjective to describe such individuals regardless of whether they identify as such; often used interchangeably with the term transgender, though there are differences, and individuals may prefer one term over the other.

One more disclaimer about these definitions: These definitions are by no means authoritative or exhaustive. They are my own, and as such, represent my understanding of each of the terms used.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Terminology -Part 2

In my last post, I went over the differences between sexual orientation, sexual identity, sexual attraction and sexual behavior. There are many terms used within each of these categories. Some are frequently used in the wrong context which can lead to confusion between people of different backgrounds.

Originally, I had planned on defining all of these terms in one post. I have found, however, that there are enough terms that defining them all at once would lead to a rather lengthy post. And so I will split the definitions into two separate posts. These posts will define many of the terms used within these categories. The list of terms will not necessarily be complete or exhaustive. They are also not necessarily authoritative. They represent my best understanding of the terms. Some terms are used in multiple categories, while others are used in only one. I will make distinctions as to which category or categories each fit in.

I will list the terms in alphabetical order. This post will cover the first half, while my next post will cover the second half.

Asexual- (used to define orientation, identity and attraction) used to describe a lack of sexual orientation or sexual attractions; also an identity used by those who are not sexuallly attracted to either sex; asexual is not the same as celibacy; those that are asexual may be in romantic or sexual relationships with those of either sex, both sexes, or neither.

Bisexual- (used to define orientation, identity, attraction and behavior) used in orientation and attraction to describe attraction to both sexes; also used as an identity by those who are attracted to both sexes; bisexual is not the same as polyamorous; those that are bisexual may be in romantic or sexual relationships with either sex or both sexes; some that are bisexual are also polysexual or pansexual; can be used as an adjective to describe sexual behavior of an individual with others of both sexes.

Celibate- (used to define behavior) a state of abstaining from sexual behavior; most individuals that choose to be celibate do so for personal or religous reasons; there are many that are SSA or SGA that choose to be celibate; individuals of any sexual orientation or identity may be celibate.

Gay- (used to define identity and behavior) a sexual identity used by men or boys that are sexually attracted to other men or boys (in other words, an identity used by those that are male and attracted to the same sex); also used as an adjective to describe sexual activity between individuals of the same sex; not all men that are attracted to other men identify as gay (some identify as bisexual, SSA, SGA or do not take on a sexual identity); the term gay is frequently used to describe a sexual orientation, though the correct term for the orientation is homosexual.

Heterosexual- (used to define orientation, identity, attraction and behavior) the sexual orientation of individuals attracted only to the opposite sex; a sexual identity used by those attracted only to the opposite sex and frequently used interchangeably with the term straight; also used to describe attractions to the opposite sex and as an adjective to describe sexual behavior between individuals of the opposite sex.

Homosexual- (used to define orientation, identity, attraction and behavior) the sexual orientation of individuals attracted only to the same sex; a sexual identity used by those attracted only to the same sex and frequently used interchangeably with the terms gay (for men) and lesbian (for women); also used to describe attractions to the same sex and as an adjective to describe sexual behavior between individuals of the same sex.

Lesbian- (used to define identity and behavior) a sexual identity used by women or girls that are sexually attracted to other women or girls (in other words, and identity used by those that are female and attracted to the same sex); also used as an adjective to describe sexual activity between women; not all women that are attracted to other women identify as lesbian (some identify as bisexual, SSA, SGA or do not take on a sexual identity); the term lesbian is frequently used to describe a sexual orientation, though the correct term for the orientation is homosexual.

LGBT- (used to define identity) an acronym for Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transexual; at times has other identities, the most common being Questioning, attatched to it; LGBT is often used as an umbrella term to include all those of a sexual identity or orientation that are not heterosexual (or straight), or in other words, an umbrella term for all sexual minorities; in more recent times, used interchangeably with the term queer.

Monogamy- (used to define behavior) in the literal sense, marriage to one spouse; often used more recently to refer to having only one sexual or romantic partner; individuals of any sexual orientation or identity may be monogamous.

Opposite Sex Attraction- (used to define attraction) attraction to the opposite sex (for example, the attraction of those that are male to those that are female, and those that are female to those that are male).

Pansexual- (used to define orientation, identity, attraction and behavior) the sexual orientation of those attracted to all sexes; a sexual identity used by those attracted to all sexes; attraction to all sexes; can be used as an adjective to describe sexual behavior of an individual with others of all sexes; by definition, those of a pansexual orientation are also bisexual (though not all bisexuals are pansexual) and polysexual (and not all polysexuals are pansexual); pansexual is often refered to as being "gender-blind" or attracted to individuals regardless of their sex or gender.

Polyamory- (used to define behavior) the practice of having multiple sexual and/or romantic partners at the same time (with the knowledge and acceptance of all those involved); individuals of any sexual orientation or identity may be polyamorous.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Terminology -Part 1

There are a lot of terms used when describing sexuality: gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, homosexual, heterosexual, trans-gender, same-sex attraction, same-gender attraction, queer, and so on. Some refer to a sexual orientation, others refer to an identity, while others refer to attractions or behaviors.

Some of these terms are frequently used interchangeably by many, even when the terms mean different things. This can lead to confusion when one uses one term in lieu of another. For example, one can engage in homosexual behavior without necessarily identifying as gay or even having a homosexual orientation. Yet they often all get lumped together.

This will be the first of two posts about terminology used when discussing sexuality. The purpose of this post is to define sexual orientation, sexual identity, sexual attraction and sexual behavior.The next blog post will address the different terms used to describe the above listed categories.

Sexual Orientation

Sexual orientation is defined by the American Psychological Association as "an enduring pattern of emotional, romantic and/or sexual attractions to men, women, or both sexes." Sexual orientation is related to sexual identity, sexual attractions, and sexual behavior, but is distinguished from them. For example, an individual could have a homosexual orientation, without a gay identity, without engaging in homosexual behavior, and have the possibility of a variety of types of attractions. Some examples of sexual orientations include: homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual, asexual, polysexual and pansexual.

Sexual Identity

Sexual identity is a reference to how and individuals think of themselves in terms of who they are sexually and emotionally attracted to. Sexual identity is related to sexual orientation, but is not the same thing. There are many people that have a homosexual or bisexual orientation that do not identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual.

Sexual identity tends to be more closely related to sexual behavior than to sexual orientation, as the majority of those that identify as homosexual or bisexual have participated in sexual behavior with someone of the same sex. Those with a homosexual or bisexual orientation that don't have a homosexual or bisexual orientation, on the other hand, are less likely to have participated in sexual behavior with someone of the same sex.

There are also some individuals that do not have a sexual identity, some because they may live in a culture that does not not readily use sexual identities, while others because they choose not to take on a sexual identity. In the past, I chose not to take on a sexual identity. I later chose to identify as same-sex attracted, as I didn't like the implications that often seemed to come with a gay or bisexual identity. I am now comfortable identifying as bisexual, as that seems to be the best identity that fits for me.

As sexual identities are how individuals self-identify, there are quite a variety of them. Some examples of sexual identities include: gay, lesbian, bisexual, straight, homosexual, heterosexual, same-sex attracted, queer, and LGBT, just to name a few.

Sexual Attraction

Sexual attraction is both simpler and more complex than sexual orientation and identity. In simple terms, it is the basis of sexual desire. Sexual attraction is closely related to sexual orientation. It should also be noted that also related to sexual attractions are physical, romantic and emotional attractions. Individuals can experience just one of these types of attractions to another individual, or they can experience several or all of them.

Not only can sexual attraction be described as being directed toward the same sex, the opposite sex or to both sexes, it can also be described as being to specific traits or features in others, some of which may be related to the person's sex, while others may not. For some that are bisexual and many that are pansexual, sexual attraction to traits or features is less likely to be related to the sex of the person to whom the individual is attracted.

Sexual Behavior

Sexual behavior refers to sexual activity, and is related to sexual orientation and sexual identity, but is not the same thing. For example, an individual could participate in sexual behavior with someone of the same sex without being homosexual or bisexual, just as one could participate in sexual behavior with someone of the opposite sex without being heterosexual or bisexual.

An individual may participate in sexual behavior with someone of a sex that they are not attracted to for a variety of reasons, including lack of availability of a sexual partner of a sex they are attracted, curiosity, cultural expectations, and a variety of other reason. In short, an individual's sexual behavior, while usually related to sexual orientation and identity, does not always coincide with their orientation or identity.

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In two weeks, my post will focus on the specific terms used in the categories I described. Until then, if you have any comments or questions about the terms I have used in this post, feel free to comment or to send me a private message.