Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The sliding scale of abstinence

I wrote:
Your religious or political views or those of your parents or community may strongly encourage you to avoid sex entirely. In the long run this isn't practical or sustainable. At some point abstinence has to end: complete sexual abstinence at age 26 isn't normal and may end up making you be uptight about sex or rush into marriage before you're ready.

...

Bottom line: abstinence works on a sliding scale. The younger you are the better it is for you to abstain from sex. The older you are the less practical or desirable it is for you to abstain. The tipping point is probably around age 21 or 22.

A reader, -L-, offered criticism by restating my view in this way:


So, please don't follow
your religious or political views. Follow mine. And if you don't and are over 26, you are not normal. In fact, you are a freak.

I don't think I quite said this.

Of course, people should follow their own moral compasses and hold to a belief system that makes sense to them. These beliefs may include sexual proscriptions. No problem there.

The point of my post was that while sexual abstinence is workable for younger ages it becomes more problematic for older ages (past the mid-twenties). This isn't a statement about beliefs. It's a statement about human nature as I have observed it.

Sexual experimentation is a part of the process of maturation. If you miss this part of growing up, it can cause inhibition and anxiety. This in no way makes you a "freak," but it may become an issue that must be dealt with later in life. Abstinence at younger ages doesn't play much of a role here; only when it stretches out significantly past the average age of first sexual experience (about 17 in the US) does it seem to matter.

In addition to the developmental issues, abstinence can create pressure to get married just for sexual purposes. This is a bad motivation for marriage, in my experience.

If I tell you that "eating fast food for every meal isn't normal and may eventually affect your health" I am not saying that you are morally deficient or worthy of scorn. Instead, I'm asserting that that there may be undesirable physical side effects to eating too much fast food. My intent is the same here. People who abstain from sex into their late twenties and beyond may face some side effects.

The word may is important. I did not say, but should, that there appears to be a wide variance in sexual drive. A few people are pretty much asexual. A life without sex works just fine for these folks, but they are the exception.

Should I laugh or cry at the fact that you taught this to your kids?

My kids had their first sexual experiences during their freshman year of college. This is a very typical age for sexual experimentation outside of LDS culture. I never had to talk to them about this issue. I did encourage them to be responsible and sensible in their approach to sex, and I think they have done this. They are well adjusted, have dated appropriately and have had longer-term boyfriends and girlfriends. Eventually I expect they will find excellent partners to marry. Their previous sexual experience will help them in selecting a mate. It will give them confidence and perspective.

I've given the advice to other young people that they should abandon abstinence. These young people have been older than my kids by quite a bit, in their mid and late twenties. Graduates of BYU, the young people I'm thinking of had a lot of sexual issues and anxieties. I would characterize them as significantly behind my kids in social and sexual maturity. It was as if the practice of abstinence had delayed their maturation. This is hard to describe but was quite real. I offer it as a data point.

I should also point out that I personally opted for abstinence as a young person. It caused a lot stress. I had the usual religious guilt over masturbation and sexual thoughts. It wasn't fun. I think my kids have it much better than I did. They have a lot less stress and anguish over sex than I did. Maybe I led them astray. I don't see it; in fact, I think the relaxed attitude toward sex helped their academic and social achievement precisely because they were not anxious or guilty about sex. I wish I could have all the hours back that I spent as a young person needlessly worrying about sexual issues. It was a big waste of time and set me back.

I hope I can post this in MoHo space with a reasonable tone. I certainly respect those whose views and life experiences about this differ from my own.

Monday, March 26, 2007

From a Young Person's Guide to Life - 1

Here's some advice I have for young persons, based on years of experience and research. This is what I actually told my own children when they were in their teenage years and other young people I know, and they all (amazingly) seem to have turned out just fine. Of course, feel free to pick and choose. Your experience may be different.

How to deal with being gay. If you think you might be gay, you probably are. This is fine. You'll get used to it. Talk to a friend and get it off your chest. Consider relocating to a larger metropolitan area when you're old enough, and remember that being gay is no excuse for not doing well in school. You still need to do your math homework. Tip for gay teens: you'll avoid a lot of grief by learning early that Andrew Lloyd Webber is an idiot and Stephen Sondheim is a genius. You don't need to do anything special to be gay. Contrary to stereotype there are no special gay traits. Just make your way through the world like everyone else and be willing to decide things for yourself. Be sure to have some fun along the way. You still need to do your math homework.

How to deal with being straight. Take consolation in the fact that you are not alone. Many young people find themselves strongly and inexplicably attracted to persons of the opposite sex. The bad news is that the opposite sex is hard to understand. Good luck. You still need to do your math homework.

How to reject a sexual advance. It may happen that someone you aren't interested in will express interest in you. In this situation, the thing to do is be polite and remember that you've just been paid a compliment. Just decline the offer as graciously as possible. This rule applies doubly if the person you are rejecting happens to be of your nonpreferred gender.

How to deal with being rejected. Having your amorous intentions rebuffed is one of life's most painful experiences. Your only consolation is that you're not alone. Everyone goes through this, and it hurts like hell. It hurts more than you think it ought to. It gets better with time. In the meantime, you have my sympathies. Try writing some poetry. Write a long letter explaining your feelings in detail, but do not send it.

How to pick a steady girlfriend or boyfriend. Look for long-term qualities in a long-term companion: stability, good humor and ethical behavior are good starting points. Bad qualities don't tend to get any better over time. Picking a girlfriend or boyfriend is (and should be) a completely selfish act. Pick someone with qualities that work for you. This is not the time to be doing any favors.

How to pick a date. Dating should be experimental. Branch out and socialize with a wider variety of people than you might at first imagine. If you have fun with someone, this is a good sign that you're going in the right direction. The operative word here is fun. You're only young once, and you'd be a fool to waste it. In other words, look for short-term qualities in short-term companions. : - ) It's OK to do someone a favor by asking them out on a date.

How to masturbate. Masturbation is a part of healthy sexual function that starts at adolescence. It is normal. Most people are embarrassed to talk about it, but it's no big deal. There are only two rules for masturbation: Use a lubricant and don't do it the same way every time, otherwise you can lose some sensitivity over time (this is a bad thing).

How to use pornography. Pornography, like masturbation (see above), is harmless, but do not under any circumstances mistake pornography for a how-to manual. Pornography can teach you nothing. Nada. Zip. Real sex (especially good sex) is nothing like its pornographic depiction, except in both cases there are two people in the room. Tip: turn off the sound. Tip 2: if you think you are looking at too much pornography, you probably are, you big time waster. Go get a real-life girlfriend or boyfriend, or at least some fresh air and exercise.

How to have sex. This is big topic, but here is the quick version: slow down, relax and listen for feedback on what feels good to your partner. There is a myth that sex is just one thing, namely vaginal intercourse with the guy on top. This isn't true; sex has many forms. (In fact, confusion over this very point got a U.S. President impeached.) Blushing when someone flirts with you is sex. Holding hands and kissing is sex. Some of the best sex around has nothing to do with intercourse. Remember: don't be in a hurry. "Going all the way" is overemphasized. There's a lot of other stuff to do beside that. It's really about affection and fun. One warning about sex: it can be a kind of glue that binds people to each other emotionally. This effect is very powerful and occurs whether the people involved ought to be glued together or not, so be cautious. Waiting until you get married (or make some other major commitment to each other) is fine too, if you can pull it off.

How to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease. This part is serious, kids. DO NOT get pregnant or get anyone else pregnant. PERIOD. DO NOT get an STD. We have the technology to prevent disease and pregnancy, and this is as much the male's responsibility as the female's. Look it up online. Be especially cautious with the combination of sex and alcohol.

What to do if you get someone pregnant (or get pregnant). DON'T GET ANYONE PREGNANT (OR GET PREGNANT) IN THE FIRST PLACE. Do not rely on your partner for birth control. It is your responsibility.

What about abstinence? Your religious or political views or those of your parents or community may strongly encourage you to avoid sex entirely. In the long run this isn't practical or sustainable. At some point abstinence has to end: complete sexual abstinence at age 26 isn't normal and may end up making you be uptight about sex or rush into marriage before you're ready. Like all life skills, you should learn about sex and experiment gradually over time. There's no need to rush this, but there's also no need to prohibit this, especially after high school. Bottom line: abstinence works on a sliding scale. The younger you are the better it is for you to abstain from sex. The older you are the less practical or desirable it is for you to abstain. The tipping point is probably around age 21 or 22.

BONUS SECTION

How to choose a tattoo. Tattoos should be postponed until you hit age 30. If you still want one by then, by all means go ahead. Have you ever actually seen a tattoo on a 60 year old? The ink bleeds over time and looks really gross.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Gay Mormon story 1

Here's a link to a humorous (but poignant) personal account of writer and historian Connell O'Donovan's coming out. It involves a pumpkin custard.

What happens when a man wins the ward dessert competition?

Half the Ward was on the floor rolling with laughter. The women who had been in the competition glared at me like they were fit to execute me on the spot. The Bishop was blue then red with humiliation and disbelief, shaking his head in his hands as though the cruelty of the gods had become too much for him to bear.

The link includes the recipe that started all the trouble.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Pic of the day 3

I snapped this at a gay pride parade:



What's interesting is that a photograph like this evokes an emotion in the viewer. It's not neutral.

When I was much younger (before I came out) I would have been dismissive ("Why do they have to parade this around?") and secretly jealous.

Right after I came out I would have been proud ("Go for it, show your pride!").

At this point in my life, I have a nostalgic and parental view. Images of young couples (regardless of the genders involved) make me remember my youth and feel protective... I have the urge to give advice ("make sure you are nice to each other," "stay in school," etc.) LOL.

What emotion does this photo evoke in you? Is this emotion different in any way from what you might previously have felt?

Friday, March 23, 2007

Chris aka Hurricane

I just read a blog cover to cover (blogs don't have covers, I know). Be warned: I'm going to gush.

The blog in question is Hurricane, written by Chris Williams with contributions by his ex-wife Keri-Kathryn (KK in the blog).

It is an astonishing account of a loving, healthy transition out of the closet. An interesting thing about this blog is that it has a narrative structure-- a beginning, a middle and an end. There's climax and denouement. However, what makes it compelling is the overwhelming sense of moral courage that pervades it. This couple was extraordinary in many ways, and there were a number of factors that make their transition a successful one.

Reading this blog was wonderful, but I felt a little like I did after reading a biography of arctic explorer Ernest Shackleton (Lansing, Endurance)... I thought, "I'm a schmuck; I'll never have courage like that." Regardless of the profound moral inadequacy one may feel after reading Chris' and KK's story, it is still worth it, just as it's worth reading the accounts of any of the great explorers. You don't have to be a pioneer to read about them.

I think Hurricane should be required reading for any LDS person dealing with SSA, including family members, friends and spouses. It is articulate and expressive. It is true in that bosom-burning kind of way. The story has tremendous resonance.

It is also capable of causing some cognitive dissonance for faithful Mormons. Chris and KK were poster children of the Mormon ideal, widely admired and loved within their circle. They left the Church, not due to sin of any kind, but due to a moral awakening that arose in a time of personal and marital crisis. The wages of sin in this case turn out to be exuberant, wholesome and loving reengagement with life following a difficult but necessary period of transition. This isn't the way this tale is supposed to end in the Mormon storybook. Someone swapped the ending! There is no alcoholism, no infidelity or abandoned children. There's a lot of integrity, love, hard work and courage. Mormon orthodoxy is the piece that ends up being brittle. KK writes:
In the weeks after Chris came out to me, we spent hours and hours pouring over his experience as a gay child, adolescent and man. In Mormon terms, I received witnesses as powerful as I've ever had that his experience was "true," that his soul and spirit are gay and that has always been and will always be. When I lined that witness up against the church's doctrine, I knew which one was not true. After that realization, that something the church said came from God was in fact an invention of men (well-intentioned, caring men, but men nonetheless) I could no longer rely on the SYSTEM and many of my other beliefs in Mormon doctrine unraveled as a result.

This reminds me of a funny bumper sticker I once saw:

My karma ran over my dogma.

I will synopsize a bit and give links to the Hurricane blog itself. If you have time, I recommend reading the source in its entirety and letting the work speak for itself. There are approximately 100 posts and many comments. But for those with less time, I hope the following will help give you a sense of what the fuss is about.

The story of a hurricane sets the stage:

On September 17, just a couple of days after going to a therapist for the first time to discuss my homosexuality, I sat down with my wife and told her that I am gay. And with that, the city that was my former life was flooded and completely underwater.

Straight spouses tells us the situation that he and his wife are in.

Homosexuality and Mormonism is an excellent basic overview of the religious issues. It should be on a FAQ somewhere.

A child's love describes Chris' coming out to his 7-year-old daughter.

I am a gay man. Chris shows an emerging gay identity.

What I learned in Enniskerry describes KK's love and process of acceptance as the couple works to find "a third way." There's no sugar coating here, just an astonishing amount of integrity, hard work and devotion:

She told me that she wants me to find happiness with another man. She's done this before, but this time I let myself really feel what she was saying. Or, more accurately, I let myself feel the truth of her words.

Hurricane got quite a few anonymous comments. An example is the following:

Wow! How liberating it must be to abandon your faith, breach your covenants and vows, and pawn off the burden of your shame and weak character on your friends and family so you can go off galavanting with other men. Whoopee! Welcome to gaydom!

The meanness of spirit behind this kind of comment contrasts sharply with the tone of love and integrity that pervades Chris' and KK's posts. [Pet peeve: why is it that haters can never spell? It's gallivanting for Pete's sake.] Not all of the comments from LDS readers are mean; in fact, the remarkable thing is that many show deep compassion even when they can't understand the situation fully. Chris writes:

[S]ome of the most touching reactions have been from our Mormon friends and family who don't really understand, and have sadness for our divorce and our leaving the church, but are able to express an incredible amount of compassion anyway.

Coming out part IV is a riveting, critical letter from a Mormon friend. I put this in the must-read category because it shows in high relief the irreconcilable split between Chris' experience of the world as he found it and Mormon orthodoxy. You can read the letter for yourself; I found in it a recognizable sense of irritation or exasperation that the faithful sometimes express:

Something doesn’t become true simply because you or I choose to believe it.

...

Isn’t the conflict you describe between your “Mormon Identity” and your new “gay” one really the conflict between the “Natural man” and Christ?

The blog then has a number of posts and comments that arise when the blog becomes more widely known to Chris' and KK's friends and church members. Many of the comments are angry, presumptuous and personal, but Chris' (and KK's) responses are always calm, honest and respectful.

A wife by any other name and "Choices" are must-read posts by KK.

An Explanation and a Testimony describes Chris' process of leaving the church.

Chris replies to his critics in "Choices, Part II". This is the climax of the narrative:

I've been accused of constructing a new belief system to justify my new identity and (again, largely unspoken, but implied) my sinful behavior. Why then do I feel a sense of integrity I've never had before? Why do I feel fundamentally honest in a way that I never have before? Why do I feel God's love in a way that I never have before? How can what I feel now fit with what the Church teaches and expects of me?

Someone take up the challenge here, because I really want to know. If you think what I am doing is wrong and will lead only to sadness, offer me something better.

The comments attached this post are particularly interesting.

The blog winds down as Chris finds that a meeting of the minds between faithful LDS people and those who leave the church isn't really possible. The post Put Your Shoulder To Wheel and its comments are the turning point. You see here the first element of a "post-Mormon" identity forming in Chris. It's poignant because you get the sense that Chris sincerely wants to reach a point of respectful mutual understanding with believing members of the church. This doesn't seem possible. (Editorial disclosure: I have had similar disappointments in my own efforts to find common ground with active Mormons.)

In Joy and Sorrow and Wonderful Normalcy KK moves out of state with the children, and Chris finds a boyfriend. There are problems (how to do long-distance parenting) and opportunities. Chris runs a marathon, and this is a kind of symbol of his life's changes. There are subsequent posts, but the closure reached by the marathon really marks the end of the narrative. For example, we hear later that Chris awakens politically, but this is more in the spirit of an epilogue.

Chris and KK, I don't know you. I will likely never meet you, but admire you both greatly. If the world were filled with people like you, it would be an amazing place.

For a long time I've had a theory that the church derives its holiness from the holiness of its members. In other words, sanctity is not top down but bottom up-- it arises from the goodness and purity of very ordinary people and very ordinary lives. In this view, Hurricane is a sacred text.

Reparative therapy

I love Jon Stewart's take on reparative therapy.

[Edit: dead video link removed-- see comments.]

I know this has been posted elsewhere, but it's just too funny to miss.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Pic of the day 1

Here's a photo I took at a gay pride parade.



These are families with same-gender parents. When you see a big line of families marching in a parade like this, it really makes you proud. It's simply not true that gay people don't raise children. Where I live, they are accepted members of the community, and I personally know a number of male couples who have kids. In fact, friends of mine just had twin daughters last month.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Pic of the day 2

Here's a photo I took at a gay pride parade.



I find this woman inspiring. Not only does she support her son (with a handmade apron sign) but she also marches in a long parade with her support shoes and cane chair. Moms of the world, I salute you.

Attitudes of youth

There's a change brewing in people's attitudes toward homosexuality. A new poll of about 300,000 college freshman shows that support for gay marriage is high.

The freshmen's support for "legal marital status" for same-sex couples rose in 2006 to an all time high of 61.2 percent, a 3.3 percentage point increase over fall 2005 when support stood at 57.9 percent. The increase continues a relatively steady upward trend since the question was first asked in 1997 when support stood at 50.9 percent.

This is six out of ten! A poll of college freshmen is a leading indicator of public opinion. It's a predictor of what will be a mainstream view in 10 years. The most amazing part is the rate of increase since the question was first asked in 1997 by the pollsters.

Another fascinating result of the poll is the amount of support for gay marriage among conservatives:

Even among conservative freshmen, almost one out of three now support legal gay unions, a level of support you would not anticipate considering the opposition of prominent conservatives.

I find this number astonishing.

I think that within our lifetimes the prohibition against gay marriage will be as old-fashioned as the prohibition against interracial marriage prior to the civil rights movement.

How will Mormonism deal with this? There is a long history of cultural adaptation in the church. There's lots of historical precedent: blacks getting the priesthood; the end of plural marriage; the expansion of roles available to women.

One of the reasons I'm interested in the experiences of faithful Mormons with SSA is the extent to which they represent a change in thinking in the church more generally. The church will only change from within. If every gay person leaves the church, it will never change; instead, it will only become more marginalized from the mainstream culture, which would be a bad thing for its future viability. (Imagine where the church would be today if blacks could not hold the Priesthood or if plural marriage were accepted.) Despite the rhetoric of in-the-world-but-not-of-the-world, the world of mainstream thinking has a profound effect on the church in the long run. If people with SSA stay in the church and become positive voices for greater acceptance of sexual diversity, then the church has a chance of making the same transition over time as society more generally.

Maybe you say this will never happen. I am old enough to remember the change that allowed blacks to hold the priesthood. It was huge. It was not so different than you might imagine compared to the gay issue. Many people in the church privately struggled with the whole "mark of Cain" distinction just as many people in the church now struggle with the stigmatization of SSA. I remember the Sacrament meeting where the announcement was made, and the expectation afterward that some of the more conservative members would walk out. You might say that there are bigger doctrinal issues with SSA; I'm not so sure. Certainly, these issues are no deeper than those surrounding plural marriage.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Sappy French lyrics

On the topic of mixed-orientation marriages (not really, ok maybe my former marriage):


Finalement, finalement,
Il nous fallut bien du talent
Pour être vieux sens être adulte


Et plus le temps nous fait cortège
Et plus le temps nous fait tourment,
Mais n’est-ce pas le pire piège
Que vivre en paix pour des amants.
Bien sûr tu pleures un peu moins tôt,
Je me déchire un peu plus tard
Nous protégeons moins nos mystères;
On laisse moins faire le hasard
On se méfie du fil de l’eau
Mais c’est toujours la tendre guerre


Jacques Brel, La chanson des vieux amants (1967).

My translation of this is:


In the end, at last,
It took a lot of talent
For us to grow old without growing up.


The longer time marches on
The more torment it sends our way,
But it's no worse a trap for lovers
Than not fighting.
Of course, you don't start crying as soon these days,
And I wait a bit longer before pulling away;
We guard our secret lives less vigilantly.
Yet, fewer chances get taken,
It isn't safe to go with the flow,
Because it's still war, an intimate war.

Yikes! The shock of recognition gives me quite a jolt.

Video of a celibate gay Mormon

I found this video to be hard to watch.



I don't see how a reasonable person could watch this and not have sympathy for the situation of this man.

Video of married gay Mormon

I thought this was worthwhile. I don't know if you've seen this one.



I don't how you interpret this personal account. I thought it was a tough situation for both husband and wife.

Gay bosses

Now I know why everyone at work loves me. :- )

It's because gay folks make the best bosses. Money quote:

Gay male bosses produce 35 to 60 percent higher levels of employee engagement, satisfaction, and morale than straight bosses.

Check it out.

Straight sex vs homosex

-L- recently had a thoughtful post about straight sex from a gay guy's point of view. I made the following comment:

I have been on both sides of this... heterosexually married (with kids) and in a monogamous gay relationship of long duration.

My experience agrees with -L-'s as far as the hetsex part goes. It was workable; we had kids; it didn't gross anyone out; it wasn't a caricature of intimacy; sometimes it was even tender.

When I first had homosex, it was like being transported to another plane of existence. The synapses in my brain went into overdrive. It was electric. The experience was unbelievably potent. I cried afterwards from happiness. It was truly making love for the first time.

When people ask me how old I was when I first had sex, I always use the age of my first homosex. Then I tell them that prior to losing my virginity I was married and had several kids. :-)

I still remember that first sexual experience. (Insert cinematic dissolve here)

Since this is a PG-rated blog, you may have to use your imagination here. But I'm not kidding: having the kind of sex you're wired for is a completely different experience from the other kind of sex.

Thirteen answers

I want to take a pass at iovan's thirteen questions. My answers are personal; that is, they are drawn from my own experience and the experience of people I know. I don't claim that the answers would necessarily be the same for everybody.

1. Can SSA/homosexuality be completely overcome?

If by "completely" you mean that you become attracted to women instead of men, then the answer is no. By the time you reach the age of sexual awareness this part of you has pretty much been determined.

2. Is it necessary to understand where my SSA comes from before I can deal with it, or is it possible to just accept that I have these feelings and then deal with them?

For me, trying to understand the origins of my same-sex orientation didn't help much. I'd say it's best just to accept where you are and move on from there.

3. Is it possible to deal with SSA without help from others? If not, where do I go for help?

Learning that I was not alone was a big help for me. When I was first dealing with this issue I read a lot of books. Blogs are great, too. Talking about my feelings with frends helped a lot. Eventually I used professional counseling.

4. Is being in a relationship before getting a better understanding of all of this going to be helpful or harmful (also thinking about the other person)?

I would not recommend heterosexual marriage if you have SSA. This affects not only your life but the lives of others. If you do decide to get married, then you need to fully disclose your SSA before getting engaged.

5. What is the influence of acting out on my same sex attractions while dealing with SSA - do I start with obedience to the law of chastity, or is that something that can come later?)

I chose not to do any homosexual experimentation. When I was finally ready to start acting on it, I had already resolved the moral issues and felt that I was acting ethically. If you "act out" before you have come to terms with this issue, you will be overcome with guilt, and this will only set you back. In other words, I think it's fine to live authentically as a sexually active gay person. But don't try to do this if this is in conflict with your belief system. It's much better to wait. If you're one of the (relatively rare) people who can manage lifelong celibacy, then that's an option as well. I'm not saying everyone has to do it the way I did.

6. Should I seek contact with other people experiencing SSA or should I focus on good and meaningful relationships with straight people?

I think meeting others in your situation is helpful. You are not alone. Many of us have dealt with this situation in our own lives. Good and meaningful relationships with straight people can also help. "Meaningful" also means authentic. You should talk to trusted friends about SSA if you can. Counseling is also helpful.


7. Should I focus on developing deeper relationships with women?

Deeper relationships with women won't alter your SSA. Deeper friendship with women may make you happy because women can be amazing friends! The alliance between gay men and women is a natural one.

8. Are there any other issues I should address if I want to fully address SSA? What are they?

I've never seen other issues that should be addressed first.

9. Is SSA a sexual thing or is it a matter of underlying issues?

I don't think we should draw too big a distinction between our sexual and nonsexual selves. They need to be integrated. We often hear phrases like "purely physical" or "just sexual" as if these aspects of human existence don't matter. They do. Who you love is a big part of you.

10. Would I be able to develop heterosexual attractions towards women? (Can I change the fact that a woman has to be drop dead gorgeous before I'm even remotely attracted to her, while even an average looking guy immediately seems to attract my attention?)

No. You cannot induce heterosexual attraction. You can choose what to do with your SSA in terms of behavior, but you cannot alter the attraction itself.

11. Is the answer found in developing deeper relationships with men or maybe with one man in particular, and then finding out the nature of the needs that are met?

As I mentioned above, I don't recommend experimentation while you are still conflicted. If you fall in love with a man but have religious beliefs that conflict with that you might find yourself in a very unhappy situation. Also, you are not the only person involved. I've read accounts of conflicted experimenters who decide to drop a friend when the relationship goes "too far." This is very cruel to the other person.

12. What can contribute to my motivation to deal with this (which ever way it goes) and not give up?

Remember that you have a future. You are building a foundation for a better life by dealing honestly and courageously with this issue.

13. How will I know the right answers to some of the yes or no questions?

I wouldn't look for right or wrong answers. I'd focus on what it takes to live your life authentically and productively. As I said elsewhere on this blog, I found that I became a better person when I gave up the goal of being a good person. The reason is that I could live more authentically, without deception. The President of the church said on nationwide TV that he is "not an expert in these matters." The answers you find will have to be from your own experience and observation.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Coming out

Mormon Enigma wrote about his coming out process. This link also includes an extended comment by me about my own experiences when coming out.

I wrote:

There is a phenomenon known as "gay adolescence" that is, in my experience, almost unavoidable. Basically, what this means is that regardless of your biological age, you tend to have emotions like a teenager when you first come out. For example, you can easily become infatuated. Your sense of "drama" and exhilaration increases. This lasts until you get it out of your system, in the same way that it works for teenagers. It's not all bad-- it makes you experience life with wonderful intensity and passion, but it also can make you irresponsible and kind of crazy. (Parents of actual teenagers will recognize this.) Be on the lookout for this. Your emotions may play tricks on you. When I hear you say "damn the consequences", I think this.

This happened to me. It was like being sixteen years old. I had crushes on guys I barely knew (including fantasies of riding off into the sunset together). I would blush when I met handsome men. I bored my friends and family with earnest-- and lengthy-- discussions about being gay. (Thanks, guys.) It was so embarrassing!

Over time my period of gay adolescence wore off. It lasted about two years.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Friends and lovers

I got married while I was still an undergraduate. The marriage was ill-advised and inharmonious from the start, but I stuck with it for 5 years and 2 kids. Then I came out and left the LDS church. Or maybe it was leave the church and then come out. (I came out to my wife before we married.)

Although coming out was a wonderful experience for me, it involved the trauma of divorce and separation from my children. I was able to navigate the transition successfully and arrange to have plenty of time to be with my young children on an almost daily basis. Kids are the X factor; they make these situations much more complicated. I was lucky in this area, and I think my kids were better off after my ex-wife and I separated. (A bad marriage can be worse for kids than a good divorce.)

A few years later, I met a man who eventually became my partner. We lived together for almost 10 years. My kids grew up (part of the time) in a gay household. They liked my boyfriend. I never had to come out to my kids. They just grew up with my being gay from an early age and never had an issue with it. Here's an exchange I overheard when my kids were about 9 and 10 years old:

My son (as if telling a secret): I just saw Dad and David kissing!

My daughter (disgusted): Ewwww, gross! David smokes!

Eventually this relationship ended after it became apparent that my BF liked alcohol more than he liked me. Alcoholism breaks up families, gay or straight. Fortunately, his drinking never affected my kids.

After my boyfriend and I broke up, I started living with a close (woman) friend, and this has been going on for about 8 years. She and I are very close, but the relationship has never been a sexual one. We share many interests and sometimes travel together. About six months ago I met a man I really like, and we've been dating.

All in all, I feel that I've been lucky. I've been able to raise my kids successfully and provide them with the resources and support to make them successful in life. I have loving relationships with people who care about me. I'm able to live my life openly and with integrity.

If I had it to do over again, there are some things I would change. Even though I love my kids dearly and consider them to be the most important part of my life, I realize that I should never have married. This hurts to say, but it's the truth.

After I came out I should have been more cautious in choosing a boyfriend. It was not a good match. To paraphrase Maya Angelou:

We did then what we knew how to do. When we knew better, we did better.

I'd be happy to see your comments or answer questions.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

My kids

I have two children in college right now. Yes, I used to be married to their mother. We divorced when the children were still toddlers.

I have been very involved in raising my kids, even though they resided with their mother for most of the time. My philosophy of child rearing was to treat them with respect and let them explore the world. You might call this a "liberal" view of parenting (my kids know I am not very liberal when it comes to their schoolwork). My kids were raised without religion of any kind in their lives (my ex-wife left the LDS church shortly after our divorce).

My brother, on the other hand, is an authoritarian, true-believing Mormon. As you can imagine, his philosophy of child rearing differs from mine. He has been a by-the-book kind of father in the classic LDS mold.

The funny part of this story is when you look at outcomes. Both of my children are well-adjusted, high achievers. My son will soon graduate near the top of his class from a very prestigious Ivy League university. My daughter is in the engineering honors program at a state university and has demonstrated outstanding leadership skills with her peers. Both are doing extremely well by any standard. In fact, just describing them might make you think I'm bragging.

My brother's children, raised much more "righteously," have not been so fortunate. One of his sons had to leave BYU after his first year for academic reasons, took odd jobs and entered into an early marriage. His life today is pretty much going nowhere. He's not a bad kid, just lost. My brother's other children have had behavioral problems.

Granted, there are many reasons besides parenting styles for these outcomes. But, if the situation had been reversed and it were my children with the troubled lives, many would point to me and pass judgment. I think the high achievement and positive attitudes of my children gall my brother and some of the more devout members of the family.

That's the nature of prejudice. It overlooks accomplishments and emphasizes faults. It's inherently biased; it hopes for failure. What a waste of energy!

Belief

I'm no longer religious. It's been years since I last went to church. I no longer believe in God.

Earlier in my life I was religious. I did an LDS mission in Europe. Losing my religion has been liberating. It's like being able to breathe again after being underwater too long.

Mormons tend to assume that a gay, atheist ex-Mormon is a gay, atheist anti-Mormon. It's true that I think the Mormon church didn't do me any favors as a young person. That's not bitterness; that's just the way I experienced the church's inflexibility toward the realities of my existence. It's true that I think the church, like most institutions, acts primarily for self-preservation or expansion. That's not antagonism; that's just the way I see it. But I have a live-and-let-live attitude about the whole thing, or at least I used to until the church started getting involved in politics. Asking its members to do its political footwork on the gay marriage issue was an outrage.

About a year ago I attended the wedding of one of my nephews at an LDS wardhouse in rural Idaho. The family had been through some rough times, and I was touched at how the community rallied around the young couple. Then I made the mistake of walking down to the bishop's office and checking out the postings mounted on the wall. There was only one. It was a message from the First Presidency. Of all the topics possible for such prominent placement, what did they choose? Gay rights. Yup. You read it here first. The single most important issue to the salvation of the saints, if we use placement as an indication, is to stop some people who love each other from making a lasting commitment to each other.

I put my red punch and sheet cake down on a table and walked out to the parking lot for some air. I felt as if I had been kicked. All the feelings I had of reconciliation that had arisen on the occasion of my nephew's wedding and upon seeing the love and fellowship they experienced went away. In its place was a witness of cruelty.

Here we go

Yet another gay Mormon blog. There are a lot of these.

Mine might be slightly different, since I've been out for a long time. Although I'm not conflicted about religion or moral issues, I am, like a lot of people, bewildered by life in general.

I like the idea of a place to hang out my shingle and rant, and I take requests. Comments are certainly welcome.