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.