Sunday, March 25, 2012

Yet Another Bi-polar Day

Today was wonderful, absolutely wonderful. I'm roadtripping in Utah right now and I had a blast at my second Holi Festival in Spanish Fork (if I ever out myself, you'll see pictures). I enjoyed some multicultural color-throwing and in spite of a sore back from being dropped on the ground while surfing the crowd (I know it's juvenile, but it's my weakness), I loved every second of it. I'm picking dust out my ears and even after showering, my face and neck are still splattered with color, but I loved it. Just such a good day.

It didn't end up how I planned it, however. I had organized a big group of people to go and we were supposed to spend the whole day together, at least in my mind, but it didn't happen that way. In fact, I spent much of the festival hanging out with a girl I'm attracted to on some level and her new boyfriend. Whom she chose over me. So yeah, not an ideal situation. Not that I blame her or anything, even I admit that he's a really good-looking kid.

Anyway, every time I come to Provo, I just get filled with this strange ennui about not going to school here. I love it here. I love the relative looseness of the rules, especially compared with BYU-Idaho. I love that the town doesn't shut down at 9 pm like Rexburg does. It's such a fun place to be a student and I am jealous of that. I had a great day, in spite of that relationship drama up there, but I felt like it was being punctuated with regret that I didn't come to Provo when I had the grades and the opportunity. I'm getting a good education in Idaho, but Provo just seems like a much better place to be a student. I didn't want to waste the whole day regretting my life path, so I prayed that those feelings would pass, and indeed they did. I spent the rest of the night laughing with my grandma and aunt before going to my old high school buddy's house to sleep.

But again, that vague discontent settled on me. This time, it was centered on my loneliness. Lately, I've been craving physical interaction. Put more simply, I really want to make out with a girl and see if it works for me. After the hot mess that was the girl mentioned above, I'm kind of over trying to date for awhile. I just want to have fun with a girl, not go too far, but have a good time and leave it at that. I know that's slutty and trashy, but it's how I'm feeling.

Tonight, though, I kinda realized that those interactions probably won't help. I guess I've never made out with a girl before, so it'd be helpful to understand how something like that makes me feel, but that cheap, easy connection won't fill my loneliness at all.  In fact, my mind ran around to those old cravings of deep, interpersonal connection with another guy. As I was driving, I openly lamented how many attractive, wonderful guys there were in this world, including some of my best friends. I don't want to give in to those temptations at all, especially given the progress I've made in the last few months, but I can't help but look at some of my friends and think, "I could really love you. We could build a  wonderful life together." That's the connection I'm craving, and I fear that kind of connection might never come with a woman.

Those thoughts are non-productive at best and violently destructive at worst. But I've been strangling them down for the last month and it hasn't helped, so maybe throwing them out there will catalyze them better.

Any advice? And as always, I'm here for you, rooting! gay mormon pioneer at gmail dot com

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Some Random Things I'm Grateful For

I went to an Evergreen International meeting a few weeks ago. I've been going maybe once or twice a month for about four months now and I'm not crazy about the dynamic of the group. It's nice having that solidarity that comes with meeting with other people in the situation, but occasionally, the group can get a little caustic and antagonistic towards the struggle. It sometimes becomes a place to complain, which is fine, everyone needs that outlet, but I am trying to be more optimistic and the meetings sometimes get in the way of that.

That being said, I understand why lots of these men have reason to complain, reasons that I never had, and for that, I'm grateful.

I'm the youngest in the support group by far. The next youngest is about 10 years my senior, and the average age is probably about double my own.  Most of these men grew up in a completely different time than I did. I told a bit of my story at my second meeting and when I said that I'd come to terms with my homosexuality (they prefer "same-gender attraction") at age 16 or 17, most of the guys there were shocked. Many of them had lived in denial of their attractions until just a few years ago, even discounting sexual encounters with other men as childish larks for years. They lived these terrible, conflicting double lives until their worlds came crashing in as they somehow realized a part of them that they didn't know (or had denied) existed.

They lived in times when the Church advocated electroshock and extreme reorientation therapy for out gay men, times when the general populace of the Church (and indeed the world) was far less accepting of the attraction, much less the sin. They had to stifle these feelings because of a crippling fear of rejection, fear that I understand and experience, but to a vastly lesser magnitude. Some of them still suffer from this shame, refusing to disclose their attractions to spouses, church leaders, and others in their lives who might be able to help them succeed.

I understood who I was when I was 16. I have as many as 40 more years of self-awareness ahead of me than some of these men did. I was able to compartmentalize some of that guilt and fear and become as public as I am today (which, admittedly, is not very public).  I was able to come to grips with everything during some of my most formative years, a time when I was able to put this whole struggle in a realistic, but hopeful context of what I am to become. Unlike me, these men had 40 or 50 years of stifled repression bubble up and tear their worlds apart. I won't have to face that.

In that respect, I am so grateful to have been born in this more wicked, more accepting, more liberal generation. There is far less shame attached to sin than there has been, possibly ever in history. Sin is acceptable in the eyes of the world, but even within the strictures of the Church, it's still seen as something to work on, rather than something to lose hope in. We as a Mormon culture are realizing more and more that sin and weakness are universal. We've neutered and de-shamed much of what we struggle with and we have become a better people for it. We needn't suffer in silence or solitude anymore.

And even in my anonymity, I have an outlet! Through my blog, I have a wide network of different viewpoints I can investigate and refine and I have a place where I can distill those thoughts into something that I can understand and use, all within the safe and sheltered confines of my computer desk.  This technology thing, while certainly a thorn in my side sometimes, has been a great boon to me as well.

I grew up in a completely different world than any of my new friends and for that, I am incredibly grateful. I have an outlet for my feelings and even amid all my concerns about bigotedness and unkindness within the Church, at least I have more than a few well-informed, well-intentioned people championing me in the struggle.

If you need someone cheering in your corner, e-mail me. gay mormon pioneer at gmail dot com

Friday, March 16, 2012

Cure the Craving

Cure the Craving is my next step.

Admittedly, I've had a relapse or two since my last desperate blog post about wanting to quit pornography, but following a very compassionate blog post by a friend of mine (I'll refrain from linking to it, that never really works out well for me ;) and a brave blog post by Bravone, I've found a second wind in my fight to eradicate porn and shame from my life.

The gist of my friend's post is that porn shouldn't be a taboo. It's a sin and it's a real problem in our world, but it's something that is made all the more damaging when it becomes too embarrassing to talk about. He links to a program called Fight the New Drug, an educational resource on the causes of pornography consumption and its effects. His post was compassionate; it sounded like it came from a young man who had no experience with pornography addiction and yet wanted to be a support to those who have. Very impressed by that.

Bravone's post linked to Cure the Craving, a program that was started by a recovered pornography addict named Tony. He is an LDS life coach and success mentor, developed the program, which takes place over nine months and is free of charge, to help people understand, compartmentalize, and cope with their cravings for pornography, sexual deviance, and masturbation.

I signed up for the program and got started with the introductory video, in which Tony explains that pornography consumption is motivated by triggers found in the body, mind, and spirit and as a reaction to stress. His approach takes a cold, clinical tack, identifying how excessive sugar consumption, caffeine addiction (is it getting hot in here or is that the Coke Zero bubbling in my stomach?), poor nutrition, and a lack of exercise lead the body to chemically require stimulation from porn. The next step shows how emotional distress, boredom, horniness (an emotion, not a physical state), loneliness, and anger cause the same reaction in our brains. Additionally, the spirit (in his non-denominational definition, the place from which we view the world) needs time and a way to cope with those temptations. Finally, effective stress management ties everything together by providing practical solutions to these physiological problems.

In addition to this real-world approach to solving the problem of pornography (something my male brain requires), Tony litters his initial video with humor and a sense of hope as he conveys his struggle with pornography. He breaks down his shame cycle in a way I'm very intimately aware of and makes me feel like I can do it. The biggest thing that shone through was that it doesn't matter how long it's been since your last exposure to pornography. All that matters is today. One day of making good choices is one day further away from porn, and everyone needs that one more day, whether it's been two hours or two years since your last relapse.

It kinda sucks because he's pretty handsome (and heaven knows how I like my men handsome and faithful), but in addition to the video courses, there are two weekly phone calls, one monthly question and answer session, and a 24/7 in-the-moment emergency line to call when confronted with the temptation. Very hopeful tools in the hands of this desperate sufferer.

So, dear reader, check out those programs if you so desire. Even if you don't struggle, maybe you'll find something you can use to solve your own problems, or maybe it'll help you help a friend. And also, if you feel so inclined, I'd appreciate the occasional check-up. Even if I've never spoken to you, e-mail me and ask me how I'm doing. It'll remind me to be more accountable.

And as always, I'm here for you too. Let's succeed together.  gay mormon pioneer at gmail dot com

Sunday, March 11, 2012


This is probably an unconventional topic for a gay Mormon blog, but I recently read an article in the news today that makes me feel like I should stand up more for the things I believe in. But, since I'm at my core a searcher, I'm also going to look at the other side as well.

Ariel and Deborah Levy have three children: two boys and a girl. Four years ago, shortly after her birth, their youngest was diagnosed with Down syndrome. Deborah was not expecting to get pregnant with Kalanit at age 34, so the parents had several tests done to ensure that Deborah and Kalanit would be healthy through the entire pregnancy; all tests came back normal. However, shortly after her birth, Kalanit was diagnosed with DS. Now, four years later, the Levys have sued the hospital where Deborah and Kalanit received prenatal care for "wrongful birth," under the assumption that staff botched the tests and that had the family known that their daughter would have DS, they would have terminated the pregnancy. The Levys were awarded $2.9 million in the lawsuit, which is the estimated cost of care over Kalanit's expected lifetime. (Source 1, Source 2)

After reading about these events, I was initially horrified. The Levys' attorneys attested that they love their daughter very much, something that seems at odds with the sentiment that, given a second chance, they would have aborted their daughter. And, knowing that children with DS are often given less credit than they deserve regarding how much they actually understand about their world, my heart broke for little Kalanit, knowing that she probably had some knowledge of her parents' lawsuit. What an awful thing to hear from your parents: "We would have aborted you if we'd known."

The backlash against the couple has been predictably fierce. They've received death threats and the comments on the news articles are generally derisive and critical of the Court's decision and the Levys' actions. At first, I admittedly fell into that camp (and to be honest, I'm still mostly in that camp). But after pondering it, I understand how they could say that they love their daughter and still would have chosen to abort her. But I think their reasoning is misguided. (Additionally, I feel like if they should be paid for the hardships their daughter will face, then fairness would dictate that they owe the hospital money for all of the love and positive aspects of her existence.)

From my viewpoint, the argument for abortion of a child with DS is that it will spare the child from a shortened lifetime of feeling different and excluded, especially if the child has a significant level of handicap from the syndrome, like Kalanit.  However, my argument against this point is that quality of life isn't determined by how many trophies you can win, by the job you have, or by the car you [may or may not be able to] drive. It's determined by the people that love you and the love you are able to give. And, as the old stereotype goes, people with DS are capable of a lot of love if they have a family who loves them back. Therefore, a parent who doesn't want a child with DS has a pretty compelling option in front of them: adoption.

In fact, I think that option is open for 95% of the reasons arguing for abortion. Unwed women, teenage mothers, and rape victims can turn their mistakes or the terrible decisions of others into great blessings for childless couples everywhere. I admit that this is a slight oversimplification, because I'm not sure of the ratio between childless couples and abortions (perhaps those children would remain unwanted), but according to my anecdotal evidence based on every accidental pregnancy I've ever witnessed, each child ended up with a wonderful adoptive family.

As an additional caveat to my previous statement, I think that in a case of rape, a decision to abort the child is completely justified. Asking a woman to take potential health risks to deliver a child in whose creation she had no say is unfair to her, but I still think that victims can do a lot of good and give an amazing gift if they feel so inclined.  A friend of mine is adopting a rape baby and the mother, in my eyes, is one of the most selfless women I have ever heard of.

I'm still refining my opinions on whether or not serious degenerative conditions like spina bifida detected in utero justify an abortion. Those incredibly painful diseases aren't readily remedied with love like DS is and often, the child doesn't live past toddlerhood anyway. That one I'll have to think on more.

Alright, now that I've said my piece using logical ideas, I'm going to back it up with my testimony.  I think it's the height of hubris to decide whose life is worth living and whose isn't. There's value in all life, even the most painful. There are justifications behind abortion, but by and large, the Lord has sent these children to the earth and has given them the chance to grow and become, regardless of the circumstances under which they are born. By and large, abortion is wrong. It's a willful, petulant display that we know better than the Lord and that this child is incapable of being happy or of bringing happiness to others. It's the acme of pride, the pinnacle of irresponsibility.  Without vilifying the individuals who have participated in it, I wholly and completely disagree with its use as birth control and strongly contend with it when it's used to "spare" a child or a family from hardship.  Sparing people from hardship is God's job and if you take it into your hands, what you might actually be sparing someone from is a life that is full of spiritual growth and fortitude.

Those who irresponsibly use abortion may not be bad people; in fact, they may genuinely and selflessly be concerned with what is best for the child. But, in my opinion, those decisions are based on misinformation.

As always, I invite contending opinions and personal stories. Share here or at gay mormon pioneer at gmail dot com.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Power of Vulnerability- TED Talks

Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston, gave a wonderful TED talk in June 2010 at TEDxHouston called "The Power of Vulnerability." She gives several interesting insights on why we as humans feel vulnerability and when that vulnerability ceases to be a gut check or a valuable piece of intuition and begins to be a crippling side effect of shame (I can almost hear the collective groans: "Geez, he's talking about shame again...).

Watch it. She's entertaining and accessible. If you can't be bothered, the most interesting point I found was that there are two types of people: those who feel capable of loving and being loved and those who really have to work hard to feel loved because it doesn't come easily to them.

Those in the first category, whom she calls whole-hearted people, have three important distinctions over those in the second category, namely, a capacity for courage, for compassion, and for connection.

The capacity for courage is manifested by an ability to present themselves as imperfect beings. The capacity for compassion is an ability to treat themselves kindly first and then extend compassion to others, the logic being that we have no ability to show compassion for others if we can't treat ourselves kindly. Finally, the capacity for connection means that those who are whole-hearted can forsake the image that they seek to convey in favor of being authentically themselves, which authenticity is required for genuine connection.

The final and major distinction whole-hearted people have is a willingness to be vulnerable. According to her research, Brown concluded that they feel neither excessive delight nor excruciating discomfort in being in vulnerable situations, but instead see them as necessary parts of life. Saying "I love you" first, entering into risky relationships with high potential, taking calculated risks professionally, and even having regular doctor's examinations place these people in vulnerable situations, situations which they view as important facets of a balanced life. Those who live half-heartedly instead bury their vulnerability and keep it closely guarded, turning it into shame.

She then outlines the problem we face today for those of us who are not whole-hearted. We seek to numb vulnerability, shame, and disappointment in self and others, but the problem with emotion is that numbing agents do not work selectively. A beer or five will not help us feel less pain and more love. We will feel less of everything, which emptiness leaves us feeling alone, miserable, and depressed and yields the use of more numbing.

You'll have to watch the video to hear her proposed remedies ;)


As always, my mailbox is a sanctuary for bitching, grieving, being joyful, being lonely, etc. Don't let shame, vulnerability, or fear cripple you.  gay mormon pioneer at gmail dot com

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