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.